Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Well… we returned Saturday night at about 11:30 PM (5:30AM in our own selfish physical universe) from our whirlwind tour of ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING (not really) to be seen in Paris, the Loire valley, Mont St. Michel, Chartre, and, of course, the entirety (still exaggerating a little) of London.

For Dolli, it was her first time and operated to a complex theme:

1) Dolli Gold Must See the Crown Jewels.
Anyone who knows Dolli, knows this simply had to happen, and it did. She loved them, particularly the tiny Queen Victoria sparkly crown over that other one with a center stone that started out as a BILLION and a third carat diamond that 40,000 slaves died over… or some such untrue drama.

2) The Intrepid Dolli Gold Search for Catholic Relics.
This all started when we stumbled into a small remote church in Chianti country a few years ago, unwittingly finding a complete uncorrupted corpse in a glass case. Game over. It’s been going on ever since, from St. Sebastion’s collar bone, to St. Vincent DePaul’s heart in a box in one part of Paris, to the rest of his bones in a case with a wax head and hands across town, to… oh well, she can detail all of it (with photos) when she’s ready. Grizzly? Nope. Well, maybe a little weird, but our travel companions, Joe and Emi (particularly Joe) have signed on to this Grail search. Speaking of which…

3) Dolli’s tour of ‘The DaVinci Code’ Paris.
So we learned at Sainte Sulpice that there’s a 10eur ‘booklet’ (sold out) telling us why the Rose Line has nothing to do with anything and refutes everything put forth in this fascinating (though poorly written) NOVEL O’ THE DECADE. Methinks my Catholic friends protesteth too much.

4) See ‘Wicked.’
We did this on our last night. We cried, we laughed, we were awed. We watched technical difficulties kind of unravel a fair amount post intermission. Then we laughed, we cried, bought a tee, a pin, and a hat. ‘Wicked’ wins the day!!! Hit a pub after for a pint and chatted with a couple who live out towards Gatwick, in to do some variation of Jive Dancing at the Swedish church down the street. A good last night in old London Town.

5) Do everything else that there is to do, including the following (and there was a bunch of stuff I’m not mentioning):

- The Tower of London (Crown Jewels)

- Buckingham Palace All the Queen’s gowns and some previously unseen jewels were on display. Nice house.

- The Wallace Collection Fabulous private collection of art, ceramics, and the BEST grouping of ancient weaponry, meticulously catalogued and numbered in massive volumes available to the public for reference.

- The Eiffel Tower Very tall and lacey, but you knew that.

- A boat ride down the Seine- it was cool. Rode it all afternoon like a bus. We got off and back on and it got us where we were going. Fun.

- The Arc de Triumph We did NOT go to the top of it… and never will.

- Big News! The wonderful department store in Paris, Samaritan, was closed for a huge refurbishing, so no roof view of Paris (which rocks) and no viewing of the Tiffany ceiling on the top floor, but
‘… always leave something for the next time,' says the Dolli Mama.

- The Two Maggots – We ate BRILLIANTLY throughout the trip, be it at one of my old faves ‘Restaurant Paul’ or a mom & pop truck stop with wonderful roasted veal somewhere between Blois and Paris, but this, Paris’s version of The Algonquin, is the cafe where all the writers who ever lived (not really) hung out. Hemingway was kicked out of there… as he was several other places, as we understand it. I used to go to The Bear Café in Bearsville, NY where Paul Butterfield (RIP) was kicked out of on more than one occasion… as he was several other places, as we understand it. But I digress.

-Notre Dame, Sainte Germaine, Sainte Sulpice- (as we noted), La Sainte Chapelle and a few other churches with great glass, high ceilings, and/or body parts under glass.

- Montmartre, the Greenwich Village/Brooklyn/scary angry African area of Paris, where Toulouse Lautrec lived and drank, one of the many Dali exhibits dwells, and Sacre Coeur, a far nicer church than given credit for, just because it’s ‘new,’ being built in 1870.

- The Moulon Rouge Seedy little neighborhood. Like parts of midtown Manhattan before Guiliani ruined it all for us.

- Les Folies Bergere This was part of a search I was doing, for a) a middle eastern restaraunt recommended by a friend and b) a notable bra shop around the corner ( a must see on any sightseeing tour) recommended by the same wholesome pal. Got there at the wrong time to eat and couldn't find the shop in question, though we did see some nice stuff in all the Jewish bakeries and butchers in the hood.

- The Louvre – Venus de Milo and The Mona Lisa to be sure. The most wonderful of exteriors ever for any building ever (this is NOT an exaggeration), and lots of other stuff, but given that each length of the horseshoe that makes up the Louvre is FIVE CITY BLOCKS LONG, not to mention the stuff downstairs, the two block section that connects the 5 block ones, and things like single exterior columns that should be viewed as a stone mason’s single life work… we did the nickel tour and visited a very few exhibits. Now… the Louvre has so much stuff, almost the entire collection of Impressionists had been moved to L’Orangerie, where Emi and Dolli went while…

I had few ambitions myself, though they be modest. This was my third time in Paris, I think. I wanted :

- A chocolate and almond paste croissant from my favorite Patisserie across from the Louvre. They had beautiful almond ones (I ate the only two in the shop when we got there) but I managed a few chocolate/almond paste varieties while in Europe… happily.

-Havana cigars while lounging in the courtyard of Palais Royale. Did it twice, once with my shoes off with feet up on the edge of the fountain when the goils went to L’Orangerie. Another, my last day in Paris. The fountain had been drained, but the bench in the shade, the cigar, and the conversation with travel companion, and member of my new country duo “Remy and Remy,” Joe (Remy) were ideal.

-Soup de Poisson : Fish Soup. A delectable cuisinarted fish and tomato based soup (a couple with nice chunks of fish in it, but not required) eaten with sliced baguette croutons heaped with garlic mayo and grated cheese, thrown in the bowl. The best food in the world (this may not be an exaggeration, but was certainly rivaled by the amazing duck with garlic sautéed potatoes in a restaurant in Blois).

-Salad with Lardons: their idea of bacon. Thick, fatty, chewy, greasy and wonderful. I managed that a couple times. Thank God for Lipitor and red wine.

- Salad with Chicken Livers. Didn’t happen. It’s more a southern thing. But that’s OK. I had some great Liver Venezia my last night in London.

-Hanging outside the Louvre. We didn’t do it much and, btw, I’ve decided I no longer loathe the I.M Pei pyramid as I thought I did, for a variety of reasons, which I’m available to discuss if you’re nuts enough to ever ask. Still, I saw that old piece of art they call a building many, many times this trip and am in utter and wondrous awe of it.

Most important for me was to share these things with the love of my life. She adored the experience with wonder, energy and joy. So I did just fine.

OK, there’s more: Our three days in Blois were great. We walked around a huge Saturday market while eating curried BBQ’d chicken wing drumettes out of a paper sack, and this is the place we got the duck mentioned above. We went to a couple wonderful chateaus which explain, once again, what kind of shit pissed off the rabble enough to start cutting heads off on that July 14th lo those many years ago.

Mont St. Michel is one of the most amazing things one can ever see, period. We watched the tide bring both the English Channel and a beautiful fog in at 9:30 PM, surrounding the Island… in fact MAKING it an island, and once again watched this happen the following morning at high tide. They’re initiating a project to remove much of the silt which will result in it becoming what it was a couple centuries ago, a full time island, so we were privileged to have seen this amazing tidal effect before it no longer exists.

The Cathedral at Charte is a world famous and brilliant piece of architecture. Throughout this trip I think, even being a horn and tail baring Jew, I felt a great spirituality in these edifices, knowing that in order to conceive of and then make real these places, a true transcendence of the human spirit had to take place. This means there’s more than what we normally see as limits, and if that’s the case, well… as I’ve said before, under very different circumstances, ‘All bets are off.”

Along that same theme…

We went to eat at a little news stand/ lunch joint. Up on the wall with the magazines, in this little quaint neighborhood that existed in this moderately sized town, almost exclusively for the traffic at the Cathedral in Chartre, I spied it. I had a moral failure and refused to purchase it, or allow any of my fellow travelers to do so for me. My dad would have been proud, but I am shamed. I will always regret that decision. It was a magazine sealed in plastic with an accompanying DVD. The title?


It was a really good trip.

Special Thanks:

We’re also thankful for the participation, comradeship, love, and ability to make their way through the language, of our friends and travel companions, Joe and Emiko, the architects of this holiday. Researching, reserving, plotting, planning, they insured that everything we did, other than the fact that almost EVERYTHING we did involved an endless number of steps to climb, was truly effortless. Thank you, my friends. My hips may feel differently, but Dolli and I adore you.