Jun 20 2010

Old Friends and New Flus

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, while my heart is still in the goat shed, my body is in Paris. Ah, Paris, where the scooters don’t stop (especially for pedestrians) and where Peter and I just spent a great weekend with my dear friend Kristy, who came over for the weekend from London. Behold: a photo of the windswept third grade friends in view of the Eiffel Tower:

Kristy made the brilliant decision to bring with her a book called Hungry For Paris, a guide to 102 of Paris’s best restaurants, which she has bequeathed to me and Peter for the remainder of our time here. All I can say is that I had also better make it to the gym across the street (I want to go to a class called “Body Attack”) — considering all the cheese I’ve been eating, it’s not just the weight of my luggage I’m going to be worried about.

We spent most of the day wandering our way toward the Eiffel Tower, making a memorable, if brief, stop in the bathroom of the Printemps department store.

A quick side note — when I was little, I kept journals of all our vacations that tended to focus on two things: airplane food and toilets. (“We are at the Sistene Chapel,” I would write. “I will now draw a picture of the bathroom.”) I thought — and suppose still do think — that my obsession was odd. But now that I’m back in Europe, I find my attention drawn once more toward the WC — and I’m starting to wonder if it’s really my fault.

For example: how am I not supposed to comment on this bathroom of a Parisian cafe, where the room pulsed with disco lights and a song called “Let’s Make Tonight A Night to Remember”?

Likewise, in the Printemps bathroom, I found many things which begged for comment. Why did it cost a Euro ($1.22, give or take) to use the toilet? And if I am going to spend that much money to pee, why did the room smell like body odor? More importantly, who was buying the luxury rolls of toilet paper printed with dollar bills? And who was the mastermind behind the campaign to sell tricolor rolls in honor of the World Cup (mix and match to make your flag)? So many questions.

After climbing up the first two levels of the Eiffel Tower, we headed to dinner at Chez Rene, a lovely bistro on the Left Bank where Kristy had been with her sister Loren (hello!). Boeuf Bourgignon was had, along with Coq au Vin, and my dish, a boiled sausage studded with pistachios. Delicious, except for one slight problem: halfway through our appetizers (warm chevre on arugula salad? thank you very much) I started to feel like I had the flu.

I commented earlier this week that it’s not good to be a diabetic in Paris (so many pains au chocolat!). But it’s especially not good to have a vague flu-like illness in the City of Love. I spent the night wrapped up in a blanket, shivering with chills, while also radiating heat from a fever. I was convinced I was coming down with full-on flu, which I haven’t had for eight years and which is definitely not on my “can’t miss” list of Parisian experiences.

Luckily, when I got up this morning, the fever had broken and I feel nearly back to normal. Not enough back to normal to want to do much other than eat cheese and take naps on the couch. But given the circumstances, that’s not entirely unusual.

And it’s also given me a chance to figure out the whole YouTube situation, so that I can share some videos from the farm. Here is a shot from early one morning, when Peter really did not want to milk the goats:

Lastly, I was talking with Kristy about how certain French words and expressions have gotten stuck in our heads since 7th grade, despite the fact that we have never had a chance to use them in casual conversation. For her, it is “aveugle” — blind person — whereas I prefer “la pelouse” (lawn) and “naufrage” (shipwrecked person, a gem given to me by my friend Andy). I’ve been in France for nearly three weeks now, and so far have not had an opportunity to talk about blind shipwrecked people on the lawn.

But one word I do find useful, much to my surprise, is “la greve.” It means “strike” and I remember that my textbook, cheerily titled “Viens Voir!” (“Come See!”) made a really big deal about it. Why was I wasting brain space on this word, I asked myself? (Especially when there were so many shipwrecked people clamoring for my bilingual attention.) When would I possibly be chatting about the labor situation in France?

Oh, 7th grade Catherine, how naive you were. Along with “le carnet” (French-speak for a 10-pack of metro tickets), “la greve” is one of the most useful words to have in your French arsenal. It is a major form of entertainment, la greve — and it pops up in the oddest of situations. When we were taking off from Bordeaux, for example, our captain informed us that we would be delayed by 10 minutes because the air traffic controllers were on strike. To me, this seemed like more than a 10-minute issue — what were we going to do if the air traffic controllers didn’t come back? Wing it? And besides, aren’t most strikes longer than a coffee break? But we took off fifteen minutes later, making me wonder whether French strikes are governed by the same work ethic that brought about country-wide 5-week mandatory vacations.

And then just now Peter read me a news story about how the French World Cup soccer team is refusing to practice because they don’t like their coach. I’m sorry, but what? You have the opportunity to play in the game of your life — the moment you have fantasized about since you were a wee, thick-thighed young boy dreaming of soccer balls — and you decide to go on strike against your own team?

J’adore Paris, but there are some things I just don’t understand.