Archive for January, 2007

2:34 pm


The downside to visiting Montmartre, as I did this afternoon, is that around the Place du Tertre especially, it’s hard to avoid the hordes of artists, all clamoring to sketch your portrait (for a fee, of course). As with panhandlers, the usual trick is to avoid eye contact and to refuse to get drawn into conversation.

That said, I’m not sure how it happened, but I ended up having my portrait sketched; he started even though I had kept walking. So, yes I finally did stop. It is, at any rate, a flattering likeness:

(That’s my fuzzy Cossack hat, in case you’re wondering.)

2:33 am

It’s Snowing

It’s not way obvious from the picture,
Snow in Paris
but those white specks are snowflakes. They’re melting as they hit the ground, though, so there’ll not be any snowmen (what’s the French for "snowman", I wonder) in the streets.

11:58 am

The corner bakery

The bakery on the corner is the one with the longest lines on Sunday mornings: I don’t know that it proves that it’s the best in the neighborhood, but it seems a reasonable proxy.

I’ve been popping in a few times a week to get my lunchtime sandwiches and my Sunday morning pain du chocolat (chocolate croissant) and the occasional loaf of bread. The staff there are very nice and the bread is tasty. French sandwiches are more about the bread than the filling, and I find that suits me well. They also have other savory baked goods, such as quiches, pizza, lasagne, etc., as well as a generous selection of pastries and candies. Fortunately, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth, so I’ve resisted the temptation.

Until today, when I got a millefeuille (AKA napoleon) to go with my lunch. It was beautifully flaky and custardy. There is, however, no chocolate involved, so expect I’ll be able to resume resisting the temptation. Although there’s no shortage of chocolate-rich pastries from which to choose.

4:20 am

Biblioholic in withdrawal

When I arrived in France, I carried with me only a few books: my Bible, a couple of reference books on living on France, and a few novels. My intent had been to have a few boxes of books, constituting what I consider my "core" library, shipped to me here. However, as things fell out, I ended up trying to do this just hours before my flight, and I ran into so many problems at the Post Office that I just gave up and had them shipped to my brother instead. (With many thanks to Uncle Arnold for helping with the process and to Little Brother for housing my temporarily orphaned books!)

So, here I am, with hardly any of my own books. The apartment has a bookcase, tiny by my standards, of course, with a modest selection of books, including some in English. I’ve thought about asking my brother to start sending some of my books, but then reconsidered. I’ll only be in this apartment for a few months, and then I’ll have to find a new home. Really, wouldn’t it be better to wait until I’m properly settled before sending for my books? (It’s way traumatic on books to have to settle into new homes: they’re worse than cats that way. Not that books are happy about being mushed into boxes either. But it’s the lesser of two evils.)

No, the answer, it seems, is to build a new and modest library, comprised mainly of books that I can love & leave.

There are several bookstores in Paris that carry English language books, and I’ve visited two of them so far: Librarie Galignani and W.H. Smith, both on the Rue de Rivoli. Disciplining myself strictly, I came away with only two books.

Books are so expensive in France, though: even ordinary paperbacks start at a little over 10€ (about $13-14 at current exchange rates). I did a little online comparison shopping at,, and, and found that, even with shipping costs added in, ended up being least expensive. That may be in part a function of the books I chose, and I’ll continue the comparative shopping routine to be sure. But in the meantime I’ve expanded my local library by another eight books.

There’s also the French missal that I bought, since I don’t know the Mass responses in French, and my French isn’t quite up to the task of following the readings just by listening.

So here I am, barely three weeks into my stay, and I’ve already bought ten (or eleven, if you want to be picky) new books. (I’ve also finished five, including some I brought or found already here, and have three in progress.) And I consider myself justifiably proud of my self-restraint!

6:20 am

Wednesday is sightseeing day, it seems

I went out again yesterday to see the sights. I walked in a wide arc that took in the Arc de Triomphe:
Arc de Triomphe
and ended up at the Eiffel Tower:
Eiffel Tower

It took two hours to get to the Eiffel Tower, and when I got there, I found that the third floor was closed for the day, due to high winds. (And yes, it was indeed seriously windy yesterday.) So, I didn’t bother to go up (‘sides, after all that walking, I was tired!).

Besides the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, I ran across the Lithuanian Embassy and the shop for The Fleuriste du Chocolat (the chocolate florist). There were some amazing bouquets in the window, which combined (real) flowers with flowers created with petals of wrapped candies. These must be seriously popular hostess gifts.

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