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March 31, 1994

Sitting in a TGV at Montparnasse train station waiting to leave for Nantes. This is, after all this time, the 1st time I've been on a TGV.

To catch up since Monday evening, Tues. 29th was relatively relaxed, a day spent at [. . .]'s office [. . .] training two and a half people in the basic uses of DOS and Windows. Two and a half, since one of the three, Dr. [. . .], in fact knows his way thru and around and backwards. (How on earth did anyone ever use DOS without being a hacker?) [. . .] a nice man.

Another simple lunch at a brasserie on the Champs-Elysées, on the mezzanine floor, and wrapped up my work at a reasonable time (7 P.M.) amid much protestations of future encounters and how wonderful I was — and in fact, I was pretty good.

Back to my hotel, shower — unpleasant surprise to find that a small growth on my left leg in the crotch area, which has been very slowly growing over the years, had broken, although no apparent cut or abrasion, and had been bleeding all day. This had happened — possibly the same mole, roughly the same place — about ten years ago. I suppose I'll have to get it taken care of.

Shower and switch to white turtleneck and more or less white trousers, somewhat anticipating the season, but that's what James had packed; and long walk, down the banks of the Seine to the Pont-Neuf along the right bank mostly — I crossed the river twice — then a little restaurant on the place Dauphine, "Caveau du Palais", where I had one of the best meals I've ever had.

A salad of lamb's brains on lettuce with raspberry vinegar and miscellaneous stuff (e.g., red currants, currants). One really gets fed up with the raspberry vinegar etc., but my misgivings were in this case groundless, 15/20.

Then a truly wonderful gratin of cod and potatoes: the fish flaky and as light as a cloud, the potatoes perfectly cooked, garlic kept subliminal, nutmeg just the tiniest bit overstated, not overly salted. Large deep dish intended as the center of the meal (18.5/20) but I went on.

Blanquette de veau, the veal a little older than it should be, but everything else just right, and the most wonderful onions I've ever eaten in my life: texture perfect, just the slightest crunch, holding together, but the taste of a cooked onion without dilution or wateriness.

With all this, I drank a bottle (I in fact left a quarter of it) of Côtes de Nuits-Villages; good, it wasn't good enough for the dishes it accompanied, and as I told the manager, I should have had a Richebourg, which they didn't have (wine selection missing the top range).

Dessert was a tarte Tatin; the pastry I ate a few days ago behind Notre-Dame was a slice of tarte Tatin, not really too satisfactory: way too sweet, also soggy; this pointed out the flaws of that: this one was light, not particularly sweet, and the crust was a marvel of golden flakiness. Crème chantilly came with, but an apparent concession to the world of unthinking gluttons out there, subtracting rather than adding, and after a taste, I ignored it.

With the tart, a poire — from near St‑Jean-Pied‑de‑Port, of all places — which was very good, and unlike both Eastern French and State of Washington poires: sharp rather than, respectively, overripe or smooth and fruitlike; excellent.

Such an excellent and large meal required a long walk, with many detours: got back to my hotel slightly after 3 A.M., having among other things heard a very large boom (of the slow, rolling type typical of gas explosions), and in fact it was one, a factory in Courbevoie that blew up injuring 60 and possibly killing 1, as reported on yesterday's news.

And so to bed — although I failed to mention getting my glasses fixed more or less for free; they bent the frame of the left lens back and tightened the screws — it feels much better and I suspect that lens won't be falling out every 5 or 6 days now.

Yesterday Wednesday, I had myself woken up at 10 to pack, check out and move to La Tulipe. Bad surprise at the desk, viz. that specifically a fax had been sent by [. . .] excluding me (like their distributors) from being paid for by [. . .] . . . Fortunately, [. . .] was there — in fact, I nabbed him as he was checking out, with his cab actually in the street clicking away ready to take him to Orly.

Taxi to the Tulipe, where I had a room right on the courtyard, which I left right away to go dictionarize at the Maison du Dictionnaire, 98 bd. du Montparnasse; with a pitstop at the Rotonde, a brasserie at bd. Raspail and bd. du Montparnasse, where by lovely spring weather, sunny but 63° or so and a fairly stiff breeze I sat facing into the sun (on looking at the map, I'm a little puzzled how this could be, but it was) with a beer (Abbaye de Leffe, blonde, bouteille), an onglet à l'échalote which was very good indeed, accompanied by braised endive and a gratin dauphiné; then crêpes Gd Marnier and a verveine du Velay.

From two-thirty then to near on six going thru dictionaries, one small box sure, another for review for various reasons. Various too conversations with the owner of the store, a young translatrix of English, etc. Still, ungratifying and I left with a headache.

Quick walk back to my hotel, and after wavering, bathed and got as decently dressed as possible — clothes starting to run out, travel is so difficult still to feel neat and clean — took the subway at La Tour-Maubourg for the Comédie-Française. In the ticket lobby, really nice to see so many young people: sure they get cheaper seats, but still, for Marivaux even, they were there in packs.

The play itself, La Fausse Suivante, hardly a great work, your typical piece of 18c fluff revolving around an occasional transvestite, titillatingly written but reinterpreted onstage to some extent as a manifesto for the dignity of women. Mildly absurd post-Chereau décor, backdrop for much of the play, altho' canvas, very convincingly made to look like the backstage receiving dock, etc. Way too much jumping around, usually uncalled for. Apparently the current fad by way of reaction to the classic bienséances where the greatest of emotions is represented by slowly sitting down. . . . I imagine that in fact would have been much more effective. Anyway, a pleasant evening. First balcony stage left almost onstage —

Quietly walked back to my hotel via the Louvre with its pyramid — interesting alignment from the base of the new statue of Louis XIV, the French imperial mind at work apparently, then long dreary walk down the rue de Rivoli to Concorde, majestic . . . .

So, up this morning to head out to Montparnasse. And here I am, in Nantes.


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