Aug 29, 2009

paris, recollected

through an improbable sequence of events, i wound up in paris for 10 days a few weeks ago. i spent most of that time underground, reading for generals between answering questions, in the main space at le laboratoire. events and observations:

  1. the first morning, i ran through the louvre to the seine, and then across the bridge to the left bank on my way to the champs de mars. i slowed down passing the overflowing summer gardens at the musee de quai branly, and then did a double take at the vegetal wall by patrick blanc covering the entire administrative building (longer article here). much of the wall up to head height is covered with a particularly soft and fuzzy moss that invites you to hug it, so i did.
  2. the tubular metal seating in paris parks and gardens is magnificent, especially the low reclining chair, which is perfect for reading. one evening, after failing to find the pont des artes, we sat in these chairs in the tuileries garden with a large bottle of warm orange juice and watched the sun go down over the obelisk.
  3. france does not believe in adequate ventilation.
  4. i met a friend from google for drinks and one of his ex-googler friends came along too. she went to pastry school in paris and now lives there, making stunningly good artisanal caramels in her paris pastry lab. (extra points if you know what a galipette is. i didn't. trust the french to have a polite word for it.)
  5. shanaz showed up from zurich for some kind of wedding celebration, and we made an executive decision to go to le comptoir du relais. it was great: pea soup with mint and tapioca, a terrine of pork, a poêlée of girolles and zucchini topped with a shaving of dry-cured pork, beef cheeks with tremendous depth of flavour, and a round slab of crisp, tender, slightly gelatinous suckling pig.
  6. some people got invited to mathieu lehanneur's workshop and i insinuated myself into the contingent. five (or possibly six) floors up, at the top of an old building surrounded by fabric stores, is a large workspace filled with marvelous things. it reminded me of the roomful of olafur eliasson's* maquettes that traveled with take your time, except much slicker.
  7. all the boulangeries and patisseries i wanted to go to were closed. chance alone guided me to regis colin, on rue montmartre, at the end of another early morning run into the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th arrondissements. it was an unpromising-looking store and they had just opened for the day. the bleary-eyed counterlady sold me a compact croissant and a pain au chocolat, both still warm from the oven. i ate the croissant standing on the corner as the sun cleared the horizon. it may have been the best croissant i've ever had. (as it turns out, it took over 18 months for me to run across a better croissant in narita airport.)

* on that note: the Institut für Raumexperimente

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