Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Why Go To Paris to Buy Books?

It's a good question. But wherever we go, when we are on vacation, we treat ourselves to bookstores. It makes sense. We do more reading when we travel. Especially on long airplane trips. We enjoy browsing books, seeing what's available, picking them up and reading a paragraph or two. I remember when I tramped around Europe in 1972 that I was always on the lookout for books and magazines in English. I traded with other travelers, found little shelves in department stores with a few English titles on offer. On that trip I spent very little time in France and just a small amount of time in French-speaking Switzerland and even in French (ostensibly my best foreign language) reading a novel is too challenging.

We made three different English-language bookstores part of our Paris experience: Village Voice, Shakespeare and Company and The Red Wheelbarrow. We went back a second time to the first two. We bought several books. One was published in the UK and one in South Africa so those editions probably wouldn't be seen at our local store. We eschewed the big bookstores on the Rue de Rivoli. We enjoyed the love and care of books that these little independent stores reflect. We sat in the upstairs 'reference, sleeping and meeting' room of Shakespeare one day and read and wrote and reflected while shouts from soccer fans penetrated the cloudy day outside. We went back for a reading session in that space, too. We had a long talk with the proprietor of the Red Wheelbarrow about books, bookstores and jazz. (Her husband is a jazz pianist.) We collect independent bookstores wherever we go. They are getting more and more endangered. I'm glad Paris has these three. There are others, too. One, called Tea and Tattered Pages, is a combo tea room and book store. We didn't get to visit because they were closed for the month of May. But we did locate it and peek in the window.

This is how we travel. I no longer question it. Whether it's Crawford Doyle in New York or the Village Voice, you have to marvel at how they can present so many amazing titles in such cramped quarters.

Monday, May 29, 2006

A Temple for Food

Place de la Madeleine is dominated by the church dedicated to St Mary Magdalen and its heroic Greek appearance. But to me it is the epicenter of culinary delight. Fauchon and other food emporiums line the place. The Lucas Carton was right there on the west side until it became some other fancy but less stiff establishment of Michelin stars. And we have discovered a restaurant on rue Vignon, just north and east of the Place, called Terre de Truffe which serves truffles in and on everything. One day we ate a late lunch in the tea room at Fauchon and dinner at the altar of truffles. We topped off the evening with a drink in a bar with the locals watching a soccer game that was on the go at a nearby stadium. We spent the morning exploring The Village Voice and Shakespeare and Company, two famous English language bookstores. Books. Food. Yeah, that's us.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Shop Windows - The Paris Edition

I mentioned in an earlier post that I had modest goals for my trip to Paris which included adding to my shop window picture collection. I did come home with quite a pile of them including this one where you can see FFP and even camera girl if you try hard enough, not to mention the typical Paris buildings across the way reflected in the oh so pink background. I believe this was a Bon Marché window in honor of Mother's Day. I think maybe there were baby animals or something in all the displays. Or not. But, of course, I loved the flamingo theme and the vibrant pink of the whole thing. Good as anything I ever got in South Austin. Most of my other shop shots will look a little more Parisian. And hey, I did eat. And drink. And catch some museums.

Caffeine Evidence

Here is part of the evidence of all the tiny cups of espresso I had. I eschewed the sugar and the little choclate squares when they were offered and let them pile up like evidence in a bag in my hotel room if I remembered to scoop them off the table.

I've watched the caffeine debate over the years. Caffeine is bad for your health. Not bad. Even good. But I'm clearly running on it like fuel. So be it. If I live to be 90, I'll attribute it to coffee. Hey, my dad limits himself to one cup a day most times but he does make it in a little French Press I gave him. Good and strong.

We'll Always Have Paris

Here is FFP at Square Boucicaut in Paris. It's near Bon Marché if that means anything to you Paris shoppers. This was our first day there after arrival and waiting for our room to be ready by visiting Brasserie Lipp (I had steak tartare and frites) and Cafe de Flore (the first of many coffees). After our room was ready we napped and showered and then walked around. In the evening we dined at a restaurant I'd always wanted to go to just to see inside: Le Petit Zinc. I'd photographed the outside many times. I had never heard anyone talk about eating there. But it turned out that they had darn good food. I had chilled fruit soup and shared a sea bass encrusted with something with FFP. We will always have Paris and there will always be food!

Bloggers out in the Real World

There has been this weird dynamic from the beginning of electronic communication. The online persona vs. the one afoot in the real world. Last night we had planned a little outing to F8 gallery for a art gallery opening. (They always have some good stuff.) We figured we'd cop some of the free food and drink and then go to dinner somewhere. But then in the afternoon I decided to skim over some of the blogs and journals that I keep up with online and I realized that Jette was going to be at BookWoman for a reading/signing event for the book Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans at 8PM. I told FFP that we'd have to go there after taking in the art gallery. We picked up SuRu and did just that with a stop at Wink Wine Bar for some tastes and to stuff our faces a bit more. F8 had a nice show with a mix of different painting styles and some wonderful photography. They also had some tasty treats from Portabla across the street and some wine.

The reading was short but interesting and we got a copy of the book. FFP picked up a couple of other books because that's what we do when we go to bookstores. (We went to three English language bookstores in Paris. And it would have been four but one was closed for the month of May.)

Jette and her boyfriend seemed glad to see us and one of my readers I'd never seen before came up and introduced herself. That is always a weird moment when you see the real person and shake her hand. You feel like you know the person better than you have a right to since she is, after all, a stranger.

I guess that disconnect has been around throughout history with penpals and arranged marriages and celebrity watching. But it is now a common thing. A dynamic where you keep your distance and then are suddenly together in, you know, real space and time. In our modern world, it happens all the time. So, yeah 'Annie in Austin' is now a real person to me. Although Annie isn't her real name. I think she told me what it was once, in an e-mail, but I forgot.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

You Really HAVE to Sleep!

It's funny but your body really needs sleep. It reaches a point where it is HUNGRY for sleep.

Our trip home from Paris had a little glitch. It was caused by lightning and rain throwing the Chicago airport into complete chaos. It meant a long layover turned into a much longer one, followed by a cancellation, a desperate phone call to rebook, about ten phone calls until we found a place with a room, a search for the hotel van pickups, a wait, a twenty minute ride, three hours sleep and a shower, more airport, flying to Houston and having to change airlines (read: go through security again) and getting home about fourteen hours late.

I will say, though, that otherwise the trip bordered on perfection.

The very first picture I took on this trip was of the cheese store a block from our hotel. We never actually bought anything there, but we did eat some wonderful cheese in restaurants. I had an idea we would have at least one picnic. You know picque-nique. But the scattered showers that persisted during our stay squashed that idea. But we had so much great food that missing out on buying it ourselves and carving the bread and cheese with my Swiss Army Knife wasn't so bad.

I returned even more caffeine-addicted than ever, if that's possible. I saved a lot of the add-ons for our little cups of espresso since we don't indulge in sugar and rarely the little bits of chocolate offered. It was quite a pile and represented a huge investment as well as lots of cafe table-sitting and people-watching. And, yeah, we did museums. And did I mention we dined? Not just ate, mind you. Dined. Ate, too, of course. I may tell all in time.

All of this is to say that I'm not quite up to a travelogue that is more extensive just yet. But I have pictures. And notes. And I'm drinking coffee and getting back into exercising so there's hope.

There are various possibilities that the visible woman will start being, well, visible again. Or not.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Typing without 'm' and 'a'

It's the little things about the keyboard on this public computer in this French hotel that hurt. Like having 'a' and 'q' in weird positions and having to hit AltGr and the zero key to get an @ sign. What is the Internet without an @ sign? Ah, well...having too good a time to blog anyway; did I mention that 'm' is in the wrong place and that you have to shift to get the period?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

This shop window is in Paris. But I'm not. I took this two years ago. I hope to be in Paris soon. Which is a little unbelievable to me. Last time I was there, it was FFP's first time in Paris and we tried to see all the standard sights: Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, the most famous museums. So now we can always skip them if we feel like it. We have one reservation for a blowout lunch. At Arpege. Other than that I'd like to go to two musuems (which are lesser known and neither of us has seen) and I'd like to take some shop window pictures and sit in cafes and watch people go by, consumed with their lives, while I'm taking the tiniest break from mine. With such a modest goal (and, hey, I could skip the museums!) I'm sure I'll have a good time if I indeed get to the City of Light.

I doubt seriously if I'll be blogging from Paris. I'm not taking a computer. I'm sort of taking a break from everything as much as I can. I hope things hold still enough for me to pull that off.

Vacations are weird things, yes?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Just Checking In

Nope...not a new picture and nothing much to say. I promise to take some pictures on vacation and maybe post them when I get back.

I feel good and I have no reason to be depressed except that people I really care about are battling health problems and fifty-eight-year-old friends are dying. I'm not that old, but that's not really the point. Not that I have one.

I feel like the world is rocketing out of control. Probably because it is. I sit at some sort of vortex, things seemingly going well for me. But how can that really be?

A vacation is either going to do a world of good in such a case or just complicate my life. I hope it's the former. Now I've just got to concentrate on packing: toothbrush, passport, comfortable shoes, a couple of good books and a digital camera. We still have a bit of a countdown before we take off but it feels short now.

Since I resigned from the daily online journal world and became an occasional technology-assisted blogger (ugh), I've been doing a pretty good job of keeping up my private journals. And I would feel bad if I wasn't because I am notorious about not remembering when things happened or even if they happened. After my vacation I may try to publish in my own format and my own space to create a record of the trip that is more flexible. Like the account of our road trip last year or our French adventure in 2004. Of course, neither of those formats pleases me now. Sigh. Maybe I'll blog it. Although it feels like I'm committing my thoughts and pictures to someone else's whims. Because, of course, I am.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Rain, Dreams and Computer Futility

The picture has nothing to do with this entry. The cool coffee shop graphics reflect, I think, Dean Keaton (aka 26th?) Street in Austin. The coffee shop may be gone but the grahpics may still be there. These things deserve preservation I think. I promise to show photos that have something to do with the entry in the future. Maybe.

It's supposed to rain in May. In Austin anyway. Last year I think the rain moved to the summer which was odd if a bit welcome. But this May is playing out its role as our rainiest month.

Yesterday we cut up wet live limbs that had crashed out of trees in the storm three days ago. We went to a dinner party last night that was punctuated with mopping up water and moving furniture when a leak developed. And there is the matter of a new roof at Dad's house which was in the path of the hail over a week ago. But that, I guess, was April.

I had a very weird dream last night. At first I was trying to find some elderly relatives to have dinner with them but there were all these restaurants and I didn't know where to go. Later, it appeared that the oldsters were trying to avoid me as if I were a small child who needed to be left at home. I tried to get some companionship with two guys who might have been related but in wandering around I found a convention of people who attached small tools to their faces. Yeah, that last part was really weird. But also there was this image of someone who could have been my mother (you know, in the dream) fooling with some costume jewelry with one hand while nervously trying to tell me why I wouldn't be coming along.

This morning this backup program I use isn't working. On the brighter side of computerdom, FFP thinks that AOL has decided to accept e-mail from him again. He was caught between our provider (RoadRunner Business) and AOL. Oh, wait. They are the same sad company.

I'm feeling a little weird this morning after all the storms, waking up from that dream, pondering computer foibles. I don't have any obligations today which means that I hope I'll get some exercise, get some things done to prepare for a trip I'm taking not so far in the future and, you know, totally get my life in order. I always have such high hope for blank spots on the calendar.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Just For You

I'm just popping in to say...I prefer spending three hours at the club playing tennis and going to the gym than going to meetings about the club's operation. But that's what I get for joining the board.

Yeah, I played two sets of 'mature' doubles. And went to the gym and read a tennis magazine while riding the exercise bike for twenty-five minutes. Then I did a few exercises. And drank a mango smoothie with yogurt, apple juice and protein powder.

I guess I should so something useful with my day now. But I like the way it started out.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Comment Away

No need to have a blogger account to comment...just click here and comment away.

I'm just recycling a picture here and popping up to comment that it's important to understand what's important in life. Most of what really matters to us is covered up with little trivial things. It's like all our important stuff is covered with a pile of old newspapers. In my life, of course, it's exactly like that.

The picture was taken of the Uncommon Objects shop window on South Congress in Austin quite a while ago. As in years ago. Those guys do some great windows for pictures.

I sat through five hours of meetings today. Haven't been through anything like that since I worked I don't think. It was good to have some perspective.

And, as I said, no need to have a blog. Just comment here.

Monday, May 01, 2006


Ah, yes. This is one of my rather large and scattered shop window picture collection. Fortunately it's mostly pixelated. The collection that is.

I'm feeling low. Well, maybe not low. Maybe medium. I'm not always like that.

I can't really decide if I want to blog. If I want to give advice on finances. Ha. Or downsizing. Laugh out loud. Or reveal and revel in my life. I did a daily journal for so long, actually making an entry almost every day for years. Making up online journal rules and breaking them.

I never developed a following like Rob. He brought his readers from his regular journal to the Blog mostly intact I'd say. I respect the few readers I had, don't get me wrong. Especially the one or two who didn't know me in real life. I just don't think I really have ever had a following to think about.

I'm keeping a journal of sorts on my computer for my own consumption. I scribble on scraps of paper and in notebooks. I used to do it because I thought I might come up with great thoughts or at least revelations through the act of writing. Now I do it in the spirit of that movie Memento. Because otherwise I can't remember. Can't remember what to buy at the grocery store or where I was last Thursday.

So, maybe I'll blog away. Occasionally update viswoman also...even though the dates and times and links seem increasingly difficult and unnecessary given this blogging tool.

One thing, though. I have endless shop window pictures with which to entertain. And the only two comments I got seemed to appreciate those. Because really...who wants advice on finances, getting rid of junk? Who wants to hear what's making me sad?(I do realize you have to sign up to comment here. Feel free to go to viswoman and comment. No sign up necessary.)

Well it's time to go take my dad to yet another doctor's visit and help him take care of some other stuff. My exciting life.