Monday, August 12, 2002

Hello from Toulouse

Dear Ones: Toulouse is quite a nice city! Very colorful with its pink colored stone buildings and very lively. It is supposed to have been a rebellious medieval city, with a nice university. I like rebellions, so I feel quite at home here. It is also the aerospace center in France. Bordeaux was not happening much for me as I am not drinking wine this month or eating foie gras or canard pate- duck-goose liver or duck. The whole city also seemed to be under construction, including my hotel. It felt too noisy, complicated and dead with everyone on vacation. I had a good time at the coast though where I spent the weekend with a very nice french family. It rained most of the time off and on but I could go on a long bike ride to Cape Ferret, saw the change of the low and high thigh, and was able to inhale lots of fresh, lightly salty air. More later. I am on a roll for more log. Are you? Did you already read the last one? You had a month vacation, now I am going to flood you. Here we go: Paris, June 28th, 2002 Friday After walking around like crazy my first two days, I started to visit monuments and museums. Since I did not go to any when I was in Paris in 1986, the only other time I've been here, I feel almost obligated to cover all grounds. Yesterday I went to Tour Eiffel, Arc de Triomphe, Musee Picasso, Musee Carnavalet and Musee D'Orsey in the evening. I have been lucky with the crowds finding ways to avoid it as much as possible. I visited D'Orsey from 6pm to 9:30pm and it was quite civilized. They open later on Thursdays. I was not feeling well all day, with a little headacke and my feet still hurting, although I was taking the subway everywhere and not walking that much. It makes me think about my 800 km walk in Spain. I feel concerned. Today, the 28th, I went to the Louvre first thing in morning - I was the first person to hit the Mona Lisa and I had it all to myself for about 3 minutes. I don't even like the painting that much, but the experience of seeing it by myself thrilled me as I would get claustrophobic when all the crowd is around. The best experience was to walk down the Louvre halls all by myself, the walls filled with XVIII and XIX century italian art, good quality art I must say. Da Vinci, Rafaelo and many others all to myself. After a few minutes the crowds came, the flashes started and felt sicker, so I left the Louvre thinking I would come back another day with a different strategy. I headed for the Opera house instead because it was close to a vegetarian restaurant I wanted to have lunch at. It is starting to sound like my life here revolves around getting at least one vegetarian meal a day. The Opera was ok. It reminded me of SF Opera. Just a little more ostentatious. It would be nice to watch an opera here. Then I headed to 6, Rue Dannau, but "Country Life", the restaurant that was supposed to provide my sustanance for the day closed down two months ago. What bad luck! I was getting a little desperate, so I went to the St. Paul metro station and had a vegetarian salad I'd had before at a little french brasserie by the station. I also had a couple of red wines and "fromage blanc" for dessert. It is kind of a weird thing to have cheese for dessert, but I am getting into the french eating habit. From there I went to the Victor Hugo maison, then the Notre Dame, just to see tourists everywhere. I've never seen the place so crowded! Since it is close to the hotel, I've been in front of it a few times and never saw so many people. I guess I am going to have to face it one day and go up to see the bell and all that. I am definetely not well. Maybe I am doing too much!!! But I think going out with my hair wet at 9am to go to the Louvre did not help much. It is still very nippy here at this time in the morning. I have been taking 3000 ml of vitamin C (emergen C) throughout the day and I am drinking a lot of juice and water, what makes me leave my room every 30 minutes to go to bathroom the floor below my bedroom. I feel like doing something in the evening, like going dancing, a show, even a movie, so I am trying to feel better. Maybe I'll feel up for it tomorrow. I'm resting a lot tonight. I got home at 6pm, took a little nap, read, wrote, and now it is almost 10pm. I can't believe it, and it is still light out. I also still have a headacke, maybe tomorrow it will depart. Paris, June 30th, 2002 Sunday Today is my last day at the Henri IV, and I am finishing up with my touristic chores-it is definetely starting to feel that way. Yesterday I went to the Louvre again, from 9am to 3pm. It was actually nice and the tourists only seem to be bad around the Mona Lisa. The rest of the museem can be visited with much more ease. And it is so large, that it really spreads out the crowd. Then I went to Picolo Cafe for lunch-nice vegetarian restaurant. After that I went to the Musee Rodin. After the Musee Rodin I was very inspired and decided to go to a bar where I practiced a lot of french and had a nice lead to a dancing place on the left bank, walking distance from the hotel. I arrived there around 1am and the place was very animated, very crowded, champagne everywhere and the cigarette smoking amost impossible to take. People smoke even at the dance stage! The music was very good, mostly american disco-the best. I got home at 6am stinking of cigarette. Even my underware smelled of cigarrete. There was a time I thought I was going to faint in the middle of so much smoke and breathing it hard as I was, really dancing a lot. I probably inhaled a few packs during the five hours I was there. I slept from 6am to 9am on Sunday, took my chocolat chaud avec du pain au beurre et confiture and headed out to the to the Concierge and Saint Chapelle. Royal people were imprisioned at the Concierge, like Marie Antonieta, before being executed at the Place de la Concorde. So I visited the prision, and as I had already gone to a classic music concert at Saint Chappelle on the 26th, there was not much to see there. Then I wanted to go back to the Musee Rodin since I liked so much, but on my way, I saw a huge TV screen by the Hotel the Ville. They were waiting for the last game of Copa do Mundo between Brazil and England. I stayed to take some pictures and left as soon as possible as I have no interest in soccer and did not want to deal with the crowds after the game ended. Then instead of going to the museum, I headed towards Rue Lemoine Cardinal, looking for "Les Quatre et une Saveurs", a vegetarian place- it was past lunch time. They had just closed at 2:30pm but I could have dessert to go, which I did, really delicious. I planned to return for dinner, but decided to take a walk at Rue Mouffetard, really close by. As it turned out, I ended up eating an assiete du fromage chevre and 2 glasses of wine at Rue Moffetard. A meal of only cheese, almost 200 grams (about half a pound), 4 walnuts in the hard shell, bread and a green leaf. The owner turned out to be portuquese from Portugal and spoke portuquese with me. Then I walked around a little, the market was closed, so I headed to a Cafe in front of Iglise Medart for coffee. Although it was quite nice there, the sun kind of faint but still firm in the sky, I started to feel myself fading despite the really strong cafe. Maybe it is all this drinking. I am not used to it. Or, maybe it is because I only slept 3 hours last night.

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