Monday, October 20, 2008

Here I go again

Today, this afternoon, I'm leaving for Prague. It's a bit of an unexpected trip but the opportunity arose and I didn't want to pass it up. Prague was on my list of places I wanted to see but I just couldn't manage the planning and being away for such a long stretch. This is better--another week or so away from my Paris home and I'll get to see Prague, Budapest and possibly a few other sights (the countryside?) along the way. I won't be going solo this time, either, which makes me simultaneously happy and worried. I'm going with my friend from Warsaw, Kent, who is heading back eastwards to reunite with his travel buddy.

The last week has been good. Old family friend, Ethan, came to visit. He and Kent did a good job of drinking a lot of beer while I mostly observed. No point at all in even attempting to keep up with those two!

Ethan's first night here, we went to dinner at Chez Gladines, a very popular, cheap Basque place. We were seated right away, which is almost unheard of, though it was a communal table and we were totally squeezed in--it still worked. Dinner was good and after we went for a wander, which lead to the realization that besides the rue Butte Aux Cailles, my neighborhood is completely dead on a Tuesday night. Walking along one of the major streets in the area we passed a place on the corner called "Atoll 13". I've often wondered what the deal was with this place. It sort of looked like an art center but it was usually closed. This night, the door was open and there was a hand made sign on the sidewalk advertising something but we weren't sure what.

A young fellow, stooped over and leaning on an umbrella, came out and talked to us. Ethan did the talking for our contingent since his French is better than mine. We were invited in to see a "spectacle" and it was free. And the place? A squat. A sort of art center-ish squat.

We walked in, went down to the basement and got one euro beers (small ones in bottles) and watched a make-shift variety show hosted by a young guy in a bald wig with a lot of grey fringe who dubbed himself "George Clooney-Cloon." It was interesting to say the least.

The next day, we took a very long walk to see a more formal arts center called "Centquatre" which is located in the former funeral home center of Paris. It's a huge building that was in use until 1998. The exterior was preserved and refurbished and the interior was gutted and (re?) configured to host about 20 artists' studios. We got to see two that were open to the public.

After Ethan left, things were a little more prosaic. Kent and I went to the movies and watched football (american style!) on Sunday. I know, I know, we're in PARIS. Don't worry: on Saturday, we walked to Notre Dame, strolled on the Ile St Louis, sat by the Seine and ate the famous (Berthillion) ice cream they sell there. We also drank beer at a sidewalk cafe out in the semi-chilly weather like the good faux-Parisians we are.

Now it's time to travel again. I'm excited and I'll try and stay in touch from the road.

Grateful for: travel opportunities.

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