Arrived, having slept maaaybe two hours on a freezing plane. Recognized some students from my same program, but we soon went our own separate ways. Caught a train into Paris, then Metro line 5 to Gianny’s house (a friend of a friend–thanks, Jane!) in the Marais, right near Bastille.
Met Gianny (an American living in Paris, completely fluent, fairly outrageous and totally accomodating), Susan (from Toronto, in Paris for a study-abroad) and Amandine (an Australian who’s been in Paris for a month, but leaves today for the south of France, then on to Scottland, etc. Living the dream). Drank earl grey with soymilk and ate a croissant, courtesy of Amandine. Introductions all around, small talk, mini French lessons and listening to music while getting ready. Then we’re off!
…to a free champagne tasting. Lots of little glasses of crisp, bubbly champagne and new people to meet (from Paris, Australia, Iceland, China, and England). Lots of chat (some in French, some in English). Number and emails and full names exchanged (for FaceBook, of course).
Then Amandine and I split off to check out Les Portes Ouvertes in Belleville, a sort of gallery stroll that allows the public to go into artists’ studios, squats (a free, artistic comune/studio), galleries and homes to see what they do, meet them, talk.
From my journal: “Broken down buildings with modern, raw installations inside; clean, white, small galleries displaying deconstructed furniture, delicate ceramics, graffiti, naked photographs of the artist. A sprawling commune with filthy but free bathrooms.”
Susan joins us for all this, along with her classmate Ronny (a New Yorker with no accent) and a Japanese girl named Yumiko that Amandine had met the night before (a calligraphy teacher who speaks little English and less French).
Then we head on to a café on a quiet street corner to see a live modern dance performance–one woman dressed in gossamer rags, rolling around on the cobblestones, climbing cars as they try to pass by and alternately baffling/interesting the public. Ronny and Yumiko leave, but we are soon joined by Tony (a photographer from Brittany who’s 6 or so years in Paris) and Amajda (an au pair from Italy). Conversation about famous films and traveling, jumping around from French to English to Spanish and back.
(I began to literally fall asleep in my chair at this point, and the café’s espresso machine was broken, but I was determined to beat jet-lag by NOT NAPPING. So I took a short walk around by myself and rallied).
Then more art, Amajda gets sucked into conversation with an Italian sculptor, and Susan goes home to work on an art project with a discarded door she’d found. (It’s after 9:00 at this point) So Amandine, Tony and I head off to a French-African restaurant that had caught her eye the other day, but we stumbled upon live blues music and so instead bought 3€ sandwiches from a Thai place down the street. We ate, drank red wine in plastic cups, and enjoyed the music.
Later, we were joined by one of the organizers of Portes Ouvertes (French), and his assistant (American, and quite brash), as well as two of the artists–a Frenchman who’s lived in New York for over a decade now and a French woman who told us about hitch-hiking from France to India TWICE when she was younger (in the 70’s). Apparently you can make it in two weeks, but she took longer–a month or so–stopping in Pakistan, Iran, etc.
Then it was midnight, and we were tipsy, so we caught the metro home, pausing to kiss goodbye to Tony. Amandine and I had the place to ourselves after Gianny decided to take a one-night, spur-of-the-moment road trip to Normandy to celebrate with friends.
Woke up, more Earl Grey, packing, bird baths, goodbye to Amandine, into the metro, then boarded a train to Tours. Where I am right now, sitting on a patio outside my room.