Saturday, July 27, 2013
Friday, July 26, 2013
Friday, July 19, 2013
We took a leisurely stroll through the gardens of the Chateau de Saint Germain, with a spectacular view of the Paris and its western suburbs from its terrace, and had lunch at an outdoor cafe located in the park. Versailles was even more spectacular, though we did not try to enter the Chateau itself due to the carloads of tourists who formed a line of several hundred yards snaking across the cobblestone courtyard. But the park, with its classical statuary, manicured hedges and dozens of ornate fountains (none functioning at the time, unfortunately) was worth the visit in itself. An added attraction was a series of monumental sculptures by Italian artist Guiseppe Panone.
Back home, John and I worked on some Django Reinhardt tunes—Daphne, Minor Swing, Swing 42, Dounce Ambiance—which we hope to do live next time we get together at the Columns in New Orleans in October. Dinner was at the Brasserie du Théâtre, across the street from the Chateau de Saint Germain, bathed in its golden nightie illumination. Sylvaine and I introduced our guests to several varieties of local oysters (no ketchup or horseradish, only lemon juice or vinegar and shallots), raw mussels, sea snails, and possibly the world's best baba au rhum, liberally doused with Saint James rum and topped with home-made crème Chantilly. The night before, Sylvaine had fed them a rabbit stew (fricasée de lapin) washed down with a nice Macon red, so we had them pretty well acclimated to the French way of life by the time they left.
Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Our arrival at our summer base in the Paris suburb of Saint Germain-en-Laye last month was greeted by a spate of cold rainy weather that the had persisted through much of the Spring. This caused widespread depression among the French (who are easily depressed anyway), though they shouldn't have been surprised. Springtime in Paris is a cruel myth; the season is most often chilly and soggy. Sylvaine and I were not that unhappy about the weather, since we had left New Orleans amid 95 degree heat and steam-bath humidity and found the fraîcheur a welcome relief—like having free air-conditioning inside and out. We even made some fires in our fireplace, which was cheery and cozy, although it was late June. The weather eventually warmed up—it’s in the 80s now, and the French are starting to complain about the heat. The upside of all this is that our garden is starting to explode with late-blooming flowers: roses, hollyhocks, wisteria, lavender... Sun sets late here this time of year, so we sit on our patio sipping cool drinks and listening to the birds sing until past 10 pm while the sprinkler waters our moss-infested lawn.
Last week, Sylvaine and I drove to the Normandy fishing town of Saint Valery-en-Caux, where the sun was out but a cold wind was blowing so hard we could hardly stand up. Swimming in the crashing surf was out of the question. So we headed further west and returned via Trouville, where we had a wonderful seafood luncheon on the terrace of the Hotel Central—an old favorite of ours—and sat on the sandy beach for a couple of hours reading (Faulkner for me, a French magazine for Sylvaine) and listening to the wind and waves.
Shortly after our return to Saint Germain, we were joined by visitors from New Orleans: guitarist John Rankin and his wife Vitrice. We have spent the past few days showing them around Saint Germain and Paris, eating and drinking, playing music, and generally trying to make them jealous of the sybaritic French lifestyle. Our scheme seems to be working: they have plunged into their sightseeing adventure with cameras clicking and wallets emptying as they buy the tempting wares of the open-air markets, sip coffee and beer at the outdoor cafes and treat us to lunch at charming little plat-du-jour restaurants. Yesterday we took them around the Latin Quarter—the Sorbonne, Luxembourg Gardens, a superb Chagall exhibition, the 11th-century Saint Germain des Prés church, Saint Sulpice (where the albino monk killed the nun in The Da Vinci Code) et al. Today, they’re off on their own, guidebook and metro passes in hand. If they ever find their way back, we’ll have dinner in the garden and watch the sun set. It’s a tough life, but somebody has to live it.