My trip to Europe, September 6-18, 2001 (motss.con XIV)

The flight to Stockholm was uneventful but extremely
comfortable in my Delta business class (thank ghu for
frequent flyer miles!) cocoon of a chaise lounge with
individual terminal/video allowing me to while away hours
playing airplane tetris.  I know that I'll never be able
to afford business class again; but on this trip it
was great...having internet in the waiting lounges, no
lines to speak of at the ticket counters (a real boon
on the way home post-World Trade Center.)

My seat mate on the NY-Stockholm portion was an economics
professor at NYU (woman).  We didn't talk much until the
last hour...and then found we had a lot in common.  Too
bad.  I'd like to have talked with her more.

I arrived at Stockholm just about on time (8:30AM); and
used the Fliegbussarne to get me to the nearest stop to
my hotel and then fearlessly set off to walk the few blocks
to my hotel (I love following maps; but it turned out
that the distances were deceiving and it was quite a
trek).  When I got to the Hotel Haga I was told, as I
expected, that my room wouldn't be ready for 4 hours...not
something pleasant to hear when jet-lagged.  I left my
baggage and set out to find an internet cafe to hang out at
with the intention of trying again in 2 hours. I needed a
shower more than anything.  And a nap.  Oh, well.  The net
will have to do.  I asked a student type for directions
to the nearest internet cafe, and he pointed me towards
Nine, however directing me to the wrong street; but I
eventually found it anyway.  I had nothing but time to
get lost (but I'm more worried about my feet...they'll
never last 12 days of walking at this pace).

At the internet cafe, it took a while to acclimatize myself
to the Swedish keyboard (a running theme, it was even worse
in France).  But I did manage to kill an hour or so at $6
per hour and then ambled off to check out the neighborhood
on the way back to my hotel.  I passed the main library on
my way, and suddenly realized that libraries have net
terminals.  So I walked in and discovered one of the most
beautiful libraries in the world...a huge cylindrical room
lined with books with a high windowed vault with walls
textured like fleecy white clouds.  It was an incredible
sight.  Sure enough the internet access is free here, as
opposed to 10 cents per minute at the internet cafe across
the street.

Back to the hotel, where they let me check into my small,
but functional room around noon.  Then a two hour nap (!)
and then the bus into downtown Stockholm to meet the group
that has already arrived at Hurtig's Konditori.  I was
still sated from all the airplane food, so I settled for
fizzy water and enjoyed the arrival of RobertCo and John who
joined myself and RobertCu, and the Scandinavian contingent of
Annette, Jenny and Monika.  This con was to be majority
women and non-Americans; but a convivial and fun group
for all that!

The agenda was to check out the con hotel and buy transport
passes, and then find someplace to dine.  The bus passes
were easily obtainable at Central station, and across the
street we found our con hotel to be very comfortable, with
a Belgian Beer Bar off the lobby, and joined by AnnG, we all
decamped there for the duration of the evening.  I pushed
Chamay beer (Howard's favorite Euro beer) to my companions,
and wasn't disappointed.  We dined that evening on bar
food; but I still wasn't very hungry, and had a salmon
chowder which was delicious.  And a couple of pints of
Chamay which definitely got me into a mellow mood.  We
all talked and dished all the absent motssers and who knows
what until I left the group to go back to my hotel for a
good night's sleep.


Next morning I left my suitcase at the Haga and joined the
group for breakfast at an American style coffee shop (called
Wayne's, I think) near the Central Station.  AnnB, Ned, Beth
and Lars joined the group then, I think (my memory is a
little fuzzy.)  I initially had just coffee and a
croissant...but that didn't do much for me.  Then I think
it was Annette (bless her soul) ordered this elaborate
breakfast with ham and olives and Swedish stuff.  I ordered
one of those and it was very filling.

Most of this con report is going to be about food, since the
main agendas of a motss.con is sightseeing, eating, sex, and
dish (not necessarily in that order); and since I'm much
more into eating than anything, that's what seems to have
filled my journal.  Well, there was tennis...I left the U.S.
in the midst of the U.S. Open and my boy Andy Roddick was
still alive when I left; but he lost on Thursday night and
my obsessive interest in the tennis results abated.

I convinced the gang to visit the incredible main library
building with me later that morning, and after using the
internet facilities there I left them to pick up my baggage
and transfer it to the con hotel.  The weather has been
spectacularly beautiful..brisk and clear with fleecy white

The next con event for me was a trip by bus to the Vasa
museum.  It is comprised of a modernistic building vaguely
in the shape of floating ship which houses a huge multi-masted
war galleon which sunk in 1628 and was resurrected in the
1950's.  It was left in incredible shape because the fresh
waters around Stockholm aren't conducive to ship worms which
usually feast on sunken wood.  The museum had a movie
which told the story of how the boat sunk on its maiden
voyage because of poor balasting.  But the boat itself,
massive on the outside with beautifully carved statuary as
decoration, and human scale interiors with little head room,
was the attraction.  Very interesting.

We walked along the wharf to the Tivoli amusement park where
Lars enjoyed ice cream and we just missed the ferry back.  But
15 minutes later another ferry, and we were off by water back
to the central city.

Stockholm is a series of islands, which was made very clear
by this ferry ride.  The city itself is spectacularly
beautiful, enhanced by its watery surroundings and shining
old buildings.  We landed in what turned out to be old-town
(Gamla Stan, a subway stop we were to return to just about
every day).  It wasn't far to the gay bar restaurant
called Mandus where we had early (5PM) reservations so we
could get a good table at this popular, but small, place.

We were seated together at one end of the room, 14 of us.
The place soon filled up and was so noisy that it was
impossible to hear what was going on at the ends of the
table.  Each end of the table ended up passing postcards
with silly messages to the other end of the table for
amusement.  My dinner was reindeer (the others were
quick to remind me that I was dining on my cousin Rudolph,
alas).  It was prepared in a cream and lingenberry sauce.
Served with potatoes layered with cheese. Fantastic!
The bar might have been noisy (and the bar girl
a man dressed in a traditional Swedish frock); but the food
was excellent for all that, and the red wine was a fine
French vintage.  They claimed to have a small kitchen, easily
overloaded by 14 of us; but it worked out very well.

I'm not sure what we did after dinner.  I do know that we ended
up at the hotel's Belgian beer bar and talked the night away
until midnight or so.


The hotel has a great breakfast spread.  This morning I made
a  traditional Swedish one with 4 kinds of herring and beet
salad, plus little meat balls and sausages plus a soft boiled
egg mixed with a spoonful of caviar paste.  Yummy and filling.

Our plan was to do a boat ride to one of the little islands,
this one called Fjaderholms, I think.  The weather remained
wonderful and the 20 minute boat ride was very pleasant.  The
entire island is comprised of walking paths with little quizzes
printed in Swedish on various plaques around the island.  I
didn't bother.  There were also lots of arts and crafts stalls
strewn along the paths, nothing much of interest to me, however.
I did try some of the Swedish version of liquorish sticks,
which was great.  I just had ice cream for lunch; but many
partook of the whole boiled shrimp, which looked interesting.

After we returned to Central Stockholm on the boat, I
parted with the company to return to the library to do some
more internetting.  After I left the library, knowing
that the dinner was scheduled at a totally veggie
place, I stopped in a McDonalds and got a 9 kroner
cheeseburger (that's $.90).  Food is actually pretty
expensive here, so that was a real bargain.  I was
sort of curious how the meat would compare with the
American variety...but then I realized I'd never had a
McDonalds cheeseburger in the States, so I had nothing
to compare it to.  Pretty awful anyway.

Walking through the city I encountered a flat place
which must be an ice rink during the winter here.  The
kids were using it as a skate-board rink with ramps
and all.  I stopped to watch; but frankly Swedish
teenagers aren't very adept at skateboarding unlike
their L.A. contemporaries.

The dinner was at a fantastically situated restaurant
with a sign which translates as "absolutely no meat."
It was on a cliff overlooking one of the major water
courses and riverbank across (which is an amusement
park called Tivoli).

There was a buffet of veggie cuisine...with an
especially good eggplant lasagna.  But I missed my
meat.  The meal was relatively cheap though.  And
quiet compared to the extremely loud bar of the night

The evening was spent with missed connections.  The other
motssers had already left the bar that I was supposed
to meet up with them at by the time I arrived after
going the wrong way on the subway for one exit.  Then
I tried to find a sports bar playing the tennis match.
I finally found one at a private club with a line
around the block to get in.  It wasn't really worth
the wait.   I continued on that block until I came to
a Swedish multiplex movie theater, which was playing Shreck,
which I hadn't seen.  The theater was very much like a good
American place with stadium seating, comfortable seats, and
good sound.   The theater was quite crowded. Shreck, seen
here, had Scandanavian saga written all over it ("ogre" was
translated as "troll" in the subtitles, which emphasized the

By the time I got back to the hotel
everybody had returned and the whole group was at a
table at the Belgian Beer bar which is the hotel's
bar-restaurant.  Ned downloaded his photos
from his digital camera into his Mac Powerbook and
showed a slide show of the days activities to the
group.  Very civilized way to do pictures.  Digital
cameras and laptops go together -- that is my next
major purchase before the next trip.


Just coffee and granola at the hotel breakfast bar,
because we're scheduled to have brunch around noon.  While
the group did a tour of the City Hall (along with what
has been described as a macho climb of the tower for
a few stalwarts) I decided I'd rather do internetting.
This time I found a place near the hotel which wasn't
all that expensive.  When I was done with that, I
walked around the shopping area of Stockholm (bustling
with major areas devoted only to foot traffic.)  I
found my way with no problems to the bus stop I needed
for the bus to the area of the restaurant.  It was
drizzling, but nothing consequential.

I made it to the Gloken restaurant right on time; of
course everybody else was 1/2 hour late, being on
gay standard time.  Typical.

The brunch place was a real of those places
I'm sure that nobody except natives ever
would know about.  That's the big advantage of
doing a trip to a city with people who live
there...they choose their favorite places.  This place
had the concept of 'brunch' down pat.  I had an
incredible chicken club sandwich with a tangy
indonesian style curry.  Somehow I managed to go 4 days
in Sweden without ever having Swedish pancakes, however
(that was something that others had).  Coffee is great
all over and thick.

After brunch we went on a guided tour (led by a Swedish
friend of RoberCu's) through Old Town starting at the
old 17th Century Royal Palace (the ancient one burned down
in the 1670s.)  I was a little underdressed, not having
read the schedule.  It had started out so nice
earlier.  But by then it was sprinkling and cold.  I
only had a flannel shirt and was feeling uncomfortable.
So I left the group and rushed back to the hotel to get a
jacket...and by the time I got back and contacted the
group by cell phone the tour was over.  So I missed out
on most of the touristy view stuff of Stockholm.  I didn't
miss out on the significant parts of understanding the
layout of the it is on a series of islands,
and how beautiful the entire city is.

When I rejoined the group it was at a gay bar called
Torvalt (or something like that...I've been very careless
about noting names).  One of the cute bartenders was very
flirty and nice and gave me my two sodas for the price of
one (though I'm sure this was nothing special.)

Dinner Sunday night was on a boat tied up at the
dock...called the Princess.  Turns out it is a gay
place and on Sunday night all prices are 1/2 the
normal rate.  So I had a fantastic mushroom soup and
blackened steak cooked just right with wine for about
$17.  Amazing, since the cost of food in restaurants
seems pretty high all over Stockholm...but this was a
deal.  The boat was slowly rocking, which made AnnB a
little seasick; and truth be told I was a little queasy
at times, the really slow rocking was a little

Then after the dinner on the boat we all went back to
the hotel to have beers in the great Belgian beer bar
at our hotel...but they close at 10 on Sundays.  So we
went to a casino that was recommended across the
street.  There was no cover...and I thought that I'd
luck out and be able to watch the tennis finals on
their tv...but Swedish tv wasn't going to show it
until Monday on delay.  To add to the feeling that
this was a mistake to go to this place, they had a
mandatory checking policy for coats and hats...with a
$2.00 fee they didn't quite tell us about.  And then
they quietly asked our host, RobertCu, to leave because
he was wearing sweat pants (though they were really
nice looking.)  This was the only example on the
Stockholm part of the trip where things went less than

Faced with the prospect of packing and catching a
fairly early plane to London (11AM; but I'm the
nervous type) I was up around 5:30AM with not enough
sleep...but I packed anyway and went down for
breakfast  I was alone, as it was early.  And by the time
I was ready to leave at 9 practically nobody had showed up.
Fortunately, I had made my good-byes the night before,
since I suspected that others would be late getting up.
Anyway, RobertCu showed up and gave me a note he had
laboriously transcribed from internet mail from Arne.
Distressing news from home; but nothing to do about it.
Anyway, I hugged those who were down that early and
made my way to Central station to catch the bus to
the airport.

Thus ended the official con for me.  I was to meet up
with motssers in London and then several in Paris later
in the week.  But that's another story for another time.

London Sept. 10-13

The trip to the airport was efficient and uneventful,
and the flight to London was equally so.  Heathrow is
big...but I managed to do the ATM and find my way to
the tube station and make it to the hotel.  Note for
the future...the tube stations have a lot of stairs
without escalators, so lugging a heavy suitcase isn't

My hotel (Queens Park, Bayswater) is actually nice
for a very cheap place.  My room overlooks a massive
green space, so there is no exterior noise.  I took a
nap with the window open in the middle of the day.
The weather was also fantastic on Monday...fleecy
white clouds but mostly clear and in the 60s.  That
is scheduled to change to rain by tonight...maybe.
It's been mostly great weather for the entire trip.

I had reservations for 8 at a high-class Indian
restaurant, Chutney Mary in Chelsea (which I found on
the net with some advice of friends.)  After my nap,
I set out at about 5:30 to search for an internet cafe.
I finally found one; but it turned out that I missed
3 others on my route which were a lot closer and
cheaper.  Now I'm set at an ideal one near my hotel.
$3 an hour approximately.  I find that totally ok.

I thought I had plenty of time to make it to the
restaurant by 8; I even thought I might be early.  But
when I arrived at the closest tube stop, turned out
that it was something of a trek to get to the I arrived exactly at 8 on the dot.  The
meal was fine...I got slightly blotto on the 500ml carafe
of the house red wine, so I'm not sure.  I had the
tasting menu, which had 3 types of appetizers (the
calamari was outstanding, soft and chewy and tangily hot).
Then came chicken tika, which was very tender and succulent.
And then 5 little cups of various entrees.  The lamb
was great, served with a little bone with marrow; and
there was a huge prawn drowned in some orange sauce.
Also a wonderful version of saag and potatoes.  Then
berries and papaya for dessert.  A nice meal for £55
including service; but I do think that I've had better
Indian meals at less pretentious places in London and L.A.

Since I had a transit card, I chose to take the bus
back to the tube station and eliminate the trek.  I got
off the tube at Earl's Court to explore...but I was
tired, so I didn't linger at one of the obviously gay
pubs in the neighborhood.  I did like the area a lot.
I saw a hotel called the War(something) that looked nice
(they claim on a plaque on the front door to have internet
terminals for guests on the premises).  Anyway, for future
reference I think I'd prefer that area to Bayswater next

Home to bed and early to rise and make my way to the
nearby internet cafe.  I'm extremely happy to have found
this cafe (in the basement of a Starbucks café of all
places...though I'm determined NOT to go all the way
to England just for Starbucks coffee.)

London day 2, Sept 11, 2001, Day of Infamy

Yeah, I know I shouldn't be thinking about how I'm
enjoying my trip while people are dead and dying.  But
it's true.  Tuesday after internetting I jumped off
the bus when I saw a bagel place and had lox & cream
cheese on a bagel for breakfast.  It tasted damn good.
Then I got back on the bus and jumped off when I saw
this huge queue to buy Vermeer tickets in Trafalgar
Square.  Hundreds in line.  Fortunately I could just waltz
up to the will-call, no line, and get my ticket.  I
was a little early, so I walked through a couple of
the early Italian collection at the National Gallery,
and then went down to the basement for the Vermeer
show.  It was worth the trip by itself.  Not only lots
of Vermeers, but some great work by Carel Fabritius
and Pieter de Hooch etc. which put Vermeer's art in
perspective.  The latter was definitely the great
master of the period.  But I was impressed by the other
Delft artists.

One story, interesting in retrospect, was that in 1654
Carel Fabritius was killed in an enormous gun powder
armory explosion in Delft which wiped out 1/2 the town
and killed hundreds.  There were a couple of paintings
depicting the site of the total destruction and the dead
bodies.  Hmmmmmm.  Plus ça change and all that.

I walked through the rest of the National Gallery
after spending a full hour at the Vermeer show.  A
Bronzino of a young man was particularly striking...and
the Spartans painting by Degas was startling with its imagery
of a crowd of nude males and scantily clad females
(supposedly Spartans; but in reality models from Montmartre.)

I wandered around Leicester Sq. looking for the theater
to pick up my ticket for "Closer to Heaven" that
night.  A cabbie hailed me out of the blue and asked
if I were an American and if I'd heard the news flash
which was coming through on the radio about the attack on the World
Trade Center.  I guess I must really look American.  I
mentioned to the cabbie that I'd bet this was payback
from Osama bin Laden that I'd read  in the newspapers recently. I
couldn't actually process it all until late evening
when I first had a chance to see the video coverage
(which was non-stop over here, too.)

I had an afternoon to kill, and I passed a theater
playing a film, Intimacy which I'd not seen.  It is a
French art film about sex...only with English actors
in English.  A little boring...there's only so much
sex one can handle in a real movie and this one
exceeded it.  I'm not sure that it will play in the
U.S.  At least not without some expurgating of the
private bits.  The acting was impressive (though the
sex was too realistic to be actually arty...the director
didn't even try to make pretty angles.)  I'd give it a
2 1/2 star rating.

I rushed back to my hotel to change for theater, and for
the first time got involved in the New York tragedy.  The
tv in the lobby of my hotel was playing the non-stop
BBC (or ITV) coverage of the terrorist attack; and I
stood glued to the set for a while.  Reports were still
sporadic, but it was obvious that thousands were dead when
the buildings collapsed.  I spent so much time watching the
tv oblivious to the hour, that I set off for theater much
later than I'd expected.

On my way back to the theater, I had plans to go to
this reasonably inexpensive, fast-food noodle/soba place (part of
a chain called Wagamama) that I'd read  about...because
I had anticipated possibly being short of time.
It didn't help that I was completely turned around
when I exited the tube at Oxford Circus and walked
in 180 degrees the wrong direction for several blocks
before finding my actual place on the map and realizing
my error.  By the time I made it to the restaurant
I had to ask if it were possible to eat in 1/2 hour...and
the waiter was extremely helpful, waiting at my table for my order and
getting the food to me in about 8 minutes!  I had a fantastic
salad of mixed greens with various delicious additives, and
a hot stir fry with chicken and noodles which was stunningly
good and healthily nutritious.  I was out of there in 25
minutes for less than a tenner.  My internet planning has
been so perfect!

Got to the theater 10 minutes early and found my place
in 2nd row center.  Before the show the producer stood
up and called for a moment of silence in support of Americans
affected by the tragedies.  This performance turned out to be a benefit for
a gay charity...there was supposed to be a big party for
ticketholders at a club after the show; but the party was
canceled to honor the tragedy in the U.S..  Fortunately, they didn't
cancel the show; and I suspect it was a particularly good
performance.  The entire production was incredibly great.  Closer
to Heaven is a musical with music by  the Pet Shop Boys, and is the
story of a go-go dancer in a gay nightclub who gradually
comes out after initially denying his gayness.  The music
was really wonderful; and the lead actor, Paul Keating (who I
had previously seen in the British tv series Metrosexuality), was
so cute as to die for.  For once a theater piece with a
second act that was even better and more powerful
than the first!  And again, I can thank the internet...I was
touted onto the musical by a friend, Vadim, who had just visited
London and was blown away by the play.  I'd love to get a
CD of the score.  I was singing to myself the pop ballad,
"Closer to Heaven" the rest of the evening.

I walked through Soho and eventually made it home to
watch the tv coverage of the World Trade disaster for 2 hours
of nothing much new; but the scenes of the air crashes and
building collapses that they played over and over never
seemed to lose power to stun.  I'm having trouble grasping
it all from so far away.  I'm feeling some amount of guilt
that I'm enjoying myself in Europe while everybody else in
America is suffering.

Anyway, there was some sort of party next door still going
on at 1AM...but they all let me sleep until 8:30 so
all is forgiven.  The hotel is nice and otherwise quiet; but
the walls are paper thin.

London, Wednesday Sept. 12

I woke up to a gloomy morning with heavy rain expected by
evening (it never did arrive).  First thing, I hiked a
couple of long blocks carrying my dirty laundry to the
nearest laundromat (called a launderette here).  I probably
shouldn't have packed so much since doing laundry is so
easy nowadays (that wasn't the case years ago; but the
American laundromat has become more common on this side
of the Atlantic since last I was over here.)

While the clothes were in the machine I went down the
block and had a "real" English breakfast...which
wasn't very good, honestly.  A fried egg, two big but gummy
link sausages, some ham, and some baked beans out
of a can, I think.  Next trip I'll try to research better
places to eat breakfast!

Then on to the new Tate Modern museum on the South bank,
which had an unimpressive art collection in a fabulous building.
I should have taken the time to go to the older Tate
Britain again, since according to what I read last night they
have an outstanding "new hanging" of their collection
and it looks stunning.  Oh, well, I'll have enough museums
and art in Paris, I'm sure.  I had planned on taking the
new walking bridge from the museum across the Thames; but
the bridge still wasn't finished more than a year after it
was supposed to be usable.

I sort of killed time reading papers etc. until dinner
in Soho with my motss friends Chris Hansen and his lover Tan
(whom I had not met before; but on motss everybody is more
or less familiar.)  They took me to a restaurant in Soho
called Steph's, which I think may have gone somewhat
downhill from past glories, since according to Chris, the
individual dishes were different from when he'd had there
before.  But the company was great and I had a marvelous
time chatting while we dined.  Chris worked on a high floor
of the World Trade Center in the late '70s and, to say
the least, was somewhat freaked by contemplating what
might have been.  Both Chris and Tan are really into films,
and the conversation really took off when we got onto the
subject of Asian films.  As for the food: the Cesar salad
was about as inauthentic as one could imagine, but
loaded with high quality parmesan cheese.  And the veal
steak was pretty much unadorned...tasty, but not special.
The Key Lime pie touted for desert was a lime flavored cream
cheese cake.  And the merlot was somewhat mediocre.  Chris
treated me to the meal, which I thought was a very nice
gesture...I'll one day reciprocate with pleasure.  But,
truthfully, one doesn't come to England for food.  Here the
company was scintillating and that's the thing.

Afterwards, Chris and Tan walked me through Soho, and we
stopped off at a gay bookstore called Prowler and I bought
a couple of gay themed DVDs (the French film Adventures  of
Felix, which was one of my very favorite films on the
festival circuit this year, and a German film called Wessler,
which turned out to be a delightfully sweet romance of two
very attractive Berliner boys, one East and one West, during the
mid '80s before the fall of the Wall.)

Back to the hotel where I read the Guardian coverage
of the events...they put famous novelists like Ian McEwan to
work writing think pieces about it...and the photos were
incredible.  I have a feeling that the coverage here in
London was as good or better than any US paper, since the
writing was so literate, as opposed to U.S. newspapers
which usually stick more closely to strictly objective news coverage.

Anyway, early to rise, all packed, my route to Waterloo
International train terminal scoped, and ready for Paris.
Hopefully I won't be subject to the vicissitudes of
the travel disruptions that everybody who is flying are
going through.  I've heard all sorts of stories about
disruptions at LAX.  Arne wrote that he was stopped and
asked for ID entering the subway at the 7th St. Station.
Oy!  I guess getting out of LAX on Monday night, considering
that I get there at all, is going to be trouble.  I'm
going to pack my swiss pocket knife away in my suitcase.
I've never had trouble carrying in into the air...even
on my recent international flight.  I assume that has ended now.

Thursday Sept. 13, London and Paris

No time for breakfast; but I bought a Stilton and Ham sandwich
to-go at the station and then did the Eurostar chunnel
trip 2nd class.  The only thing different about it from any
old train trip was that my ears popped in the tunnel.  It must
be pretty deep.  The trip took a little over 3 hours and I
felt quite relaxed when I got to Paris around 2PM.

Arrived at the Gare du Nord.  Weather again incredibly nice
for September, autumnal with more fleecy white clouds and maybe a
sprinkle once or twice a day.  The lines at the ATMs in the
station were impossibly long, so I walked to a Credit Lyonnaise ATM
across the street to get money.  I Metroed to the Hôtel de
Ville station and found the Axial Beaubourg hotel with little
difficulty, only getting turned around once.  But, once again
the stairs in the tube stations were a little difficult to
traverse with a heavy suitcase.  I'll travel even lighter in
the future (or maybe break down and take cabs?  I'll have to be
a very old man before I do that!)

Very nice room...comfortable and roomy in a very quiet 5th floor
alcove.  Boy, do I love the European showers with their removable

I'd no sooner settled in my room when the phone rang and a
lady I've never met...but know through the soc.motss...named
Chris Waigl phoned; and we made plans to get together around
6:30 for a drink...meeting at the Stravinski fountain
at the Pompadou Museum.  I had 9PM reservations at L'Epi Dupin
restaurant on the Left Bank; but Chris declined my invite to

After my de rigeur search for an internet cafe, which met with
indifferent results at a very expensive place ($2.50 for 20 minutes),
I met Chris right on time at the fountain and she took
me to a bar called Banana for aperitifs.  Campari,
yumm - why don't I drink it more often?  Chris laughed
at some of my French...anglicisms she called them, so we
talked mostly English.  I do wish my French were better, though
I don't seem to have any trouble making myself understood.   We
sat at a table next to an American who had also arrived the
same day from London...he spends half his time in Europe as make-up
artist for the fashion industry.  I asked him if any of the world
famous models that he does make-up for are bitches and he
said that many are...but particularly Naomi Campbell.  I love
dish when it comes from the horses mouth.

Afterwards I prepped for my first Parisian dinner at
L'Epi Dupin.  It is a small, friendly, extremely popular
place that was touted to me in e-mail by one of my internet
movie buds, Charles François (gotta remember to thank him!)
I hear that the wait for a reservation is 2 weeks...but
I'd made mine several weeks before from the States, so no
problem.  One reason it is popular is the price.  I had 4
courses, wine and tip for $45.  First course was langoustines
sort of tempuraed on a bed of puréed pineapple.  Strange and a
little sweet for a first course; but a very interesting blend
of tastes.  The entrée was fabulous, however: pork
tenderloin cooked to pink perfection, so tender that it could
be cut by fork, and encased in one thin layer of filo dough
and served on a bed of spinach and apples.  Incredibly delicious,
almost sublime.  After a cheese course of a tangy brie the dessert
were three perfect huge figs and vanilla ice cream.  The wine I
chose was a 2000 Boujoulais...adequate and inexpensive,
but nothing special.

I sat next to a married couple from New York who had been on
vacation in rural France and were about to return to the
U.S. the next day, if the planes flew.  Turned out they were
Jewish and he was exactly my age.  We talked for hours -
about the New York disaster, of course, but also about everything
under the sun:  our families, backgrounds, interests, lives.
Americans seem to be drawn closer by the events this week.
Nobody is sure that we'll be able to get back on time.
Air France keeps canceling flights...we'll see.

I guess if I have to be stuck in Europe for more time
there are worse places to be stuck than Paris.

I caught the last metro back to the Marais, considered going
out to one of the local gay bars; but didn't.  I don't think
I'm up to cruising solo in Paris this trip.  I feel old and
fat.  And the French boys are all so gloriously attractive.

Friday Paris Day 2

I've found a wonderful & cheap cybercafe in the Les
Halles area a few yards from my hotel with over 300
terminals and 3 hours for 10 Fr. in the morning.  All
the other places I see are so much more expensive (40
Fr. per hour) that I don't understand how the market
forces are working.  Actually, I cheated and read
about this place in a column in the Herald Trib; but
still I was glad to find such an ideal place so close by.

I tried the 45 Fr continental breakfast at the hotel;
but it was boring, just croissant and a roll and lots
of good drip coffee (which turned out to not be so easy to
find in Paris).   I decided to eat breakfast out next time;
but as it turned out I never did find a great breakfast in

I finally got moving close to noon and made it to my
first scheduled museum, the Jeu de Paumes,
coincidentally 5 minutes before they opened at noon.  I
hadn't heard the word about the worldwide moment of
silence at noon local time; and apparently they hadn't
heard about it at the museum either.  So it passed
while I was waiting in line inside, only to be told that my 3
day museum pass wasn't good at this place and that the
Orangerie (which did take the card) was closed until the year
2004.  Later that afternoon I saw tv pictures of all
of Paris (and other Euro places) coming to a total
stop at noon...saw pictures of traffic stopped at the
Place de la Concorde where I'd viewed the bustle only
seconds before; but typically of my trip I managed to
miss any engagement in this all consuming event which
is seemingly affecting every other American.

So, having had my card rebuffed at the Jeu, I walked
across the Seine to visit the Musée d'Orsay.  When I
got there the line queuing up to get in was several
hundred people long...increased security & the noon
rush.  But I had heard that the museum card allows for
special entry; so I tried bypassing the line and going
straight to the door where I found a dozen or so
people holding similar cards.  They told me that a
woman told them that entry for cardholders would be in
a couple of minutes...and sure enough I was shown
through the door without hassles.  Even if my
blistered feet don't allow for much more museum going,
I feel that this card (another internet discovery) was
worth it in avoiding the line...after all my primary
draw to Paris was this museum which hadn't been open
in '84 when I was last here, while the impressionists
were being moved and unable to be viewed.

I loved this museum.  On the middle level was the
gayest painting I've ever seen...a huge depiction of
Plato and his students by a painter I've never heard
of, Jean Delville.  The students were all naked and
suggestively draped around each other.  Well you had
to be there and see it in all its campy glory.  As for
the 4th floor Impressionists, what is there to say?
I broke into tears in front of the most beautiful Van Gogh
I've ever seen, a pastoral homey scene predominantly in
green called "Chaumes à Cordeville".  The Caillebottes and
especially the Manets were simply stunning.  And Whistler's
Mother also brought tears to my eyes; maybe because it was
so symbolically and iconically American this particular week.

By the time I'd covered the d'Orsay in its entirety I
was starved.  While walking near my hotel I had spied
a beautiful take-out salmon salad in a window and I
found myself craving that even though it meant passing
up lots of places while heading back to my hotel.  Despite
aching feet I took a long walk across the Seine to find a
metro station.  But I finally exited at the Hôtel de Ville station
and made a bee line for the food store and took my gorgeous
salad back to my room to consume.  Yummy...really
excellent with lentils, beets and other stuff artfully
arranged on the plastic plate.  I love the
French...even the simple things are esthetically

After a nap and a short visit to read e-mail I bussed to
meet my traveling friends who had supposedly arrived in
Paris Friday afternoon.  No problem finding their hotel,
which turned out to be about 10 blocks from mine.  I met
up with Lars and Ned, sharing a 5th floor room, and Beth
and AnnB who were on the 4th floor.  Frankly, I liked my
hotel better than theirs...but I think their accommodations
were considered to be higher class than mine.  Have I
mentioned lately that I love the Hotel Axial Beaubourg?

Chris Waigl, our Parisian amie from the night before, met
up with us and we were off for aperitifs at one of the
corner bars and then on to the restaurant in a nearby
quartier, La Dame Jeanne, which had impressed me from
the Zagat review as a good, inexpensive, well thought of French
country restaurant.  Chris had eaten at several restaurants
in the neighborhood; but never at Dame Jeanne.

The room was very pleasant, sort of comfy, homey faux cellar,
with lots of room between tables and a nicely muted quiet
about it.  I had a cheese risotto which was the essence of
cheese packed into a small package.  I tasted Ned's salad
of bits of chicken and two colors of celery which was also
excellent.  Others had something described as pigs feet and chèvre
(actually little toasty looking morsels.)  Nobody left
any scraps so it must have been good.  We had an
inexpensive white wine, called one of Dame Jeanne's
"discoveries", a semillon from the Loire (didn't write
the name, darn it) and it was excellent for 95 Fr.  The
plat for me was the special of sea bass: buttery soft
and tasty with mashed potatoes & spinach.  Simple
fare, but delicious.  Ned let me taste his duck served
in a potato and truffle oil mass.  It too was
delicious.  I chose a red Burgundy from the Baune
region, a 1999, which was just satisfactory...too
young, not much body.  I had a delicious fig tart with
sorbet (much like desert the night before); the tart
was skillfully made, but the figs weren't quite as
good as those I had the night before, almost tasteless.  But all
in all we were happy with the meal which came to less
than $40 a seems like a better value in
Paris than in London or especially Stockholm.

We talked for hours.  Our French/German host Chris was fact she never stops talking...but always
interesting.  After the meal she took us walking through
the Bastille plaza to the Marais by a scenic and lively
route.  Paris was HOPPING with nightlife all over
(midnightish on a Friday night).  I was silently coping
with a blister on my big toe, so I was happy to get back
to my hotel, leaving the group to go to wherever, and
for me to get a good night sleep.

Paris, Saturday, Sept. 15

This morning, up early, and I put a Band-Aid on my toe
and decided that my feet just weren't up to the Louvre.

After 2 1/2 hours of internetting I set out to explore
the Marais, looking for a nice lunch place.  I found a
pleasant looking Belgian restaurant called Léon de Bruxelles
on the Rue Rambuteau (walking around the Marais is so
much fun...such crowds on a Saturday and so many
delicious looking places to eat.)  I ordered their moules-frites
special with Belgian beer.  Maybe 3 or 4 dozen mussels in
an absolutely delicious cream sauce with scallions and
peppery seasonings for about $10.  It turned into a really
rich soup after I had consumed all the mussels and
discarded the shells.  I sopped it all up with french baguette
breads.  Another winning choice, Ken!

After lunch, I wandered into the underground maze of Les
Halles to see what the cinema scene was.  Turned out
the best movie I wanted to catch was back near the Pompadou
Center and I only had 20 minutes to get there.  I made it
in time only to be told that the senior rate (60+) isn't
applicable on weekends.  Oh, well.  Brad Anderson's Happy
Accidents was a nice film - a huge step up from his last
disaster.  After the film, I went DVD shopping at the huge,
unbelievably crowded electronics superstore FNAC
in Les Halles. There were dozens of DVDs I wanted to buy;
but most of them lacked sub-titles in English (why, when
it would be so easy and cheap to supply them for a larger
market?!)  I settled for one rather expensive one ($35); but
it was one of my favorite French movies of the past few years, A
Matter of Taste.  In retrospect, I should have bought some more,
it is so hard to find French film DVDs here in the U.S.;
but FNAC seemed very expensive.

Then back to the hotel for an unexpected nap (I've been
getting enough sleep on this trip for sure!)  Then met
friends for cocktails and serious dining.  Had a
frozen Margarita at one of the local bistros on the
Rue aux Orses.  Then off to the Left Bank to a place
called Yves Quintard, which had been recommended by our
French friends of this night, Fabrice and Evelyne.  The
room is small and elegant and this particular night filled with
ourselves at a perfectly sized round table for 7 and
two other largish parties; the French birthday party group
next to us were particularly convivial (and I was transfixed
by the teenage boy at their table, he was so cute and
lively...oh, I'm such a dirty old man these days.)

Our meal was spectacular.  I talked the table into all of
us having the menu dégustation.  First came an amuse bouche
(which I mistakenly referred to as an "amuse gueule" to Fabrice's
utter horror) of a piece of chicken in a medium hot sauce and
a cup of a divine mixture of finely chopped eggs, crab, tobasco
and something else that I didn't catch.  Most of us had a
'99 Croze Hermitage white wine, except for our two French amis,
who eschewed white and ordered what the hostesses suggested, a
red Syrah from Languedoc-Roussion.  It wasn't much to Evelyn's
liking  so she ordered another wine in addition, a Saint Julien
Bordeaux.  I had glasses of all of it and got quite tipsy.

The first course was divine.  A slice of foie gras
along with a light, tangy (not sweet) flan and slice of
artichoke heart.  The textures were all velvety similar; but the
tastes were entirely different, making for an amazing
feeling on the tongue.  Following was a course of
chopped crab & other crispy stuff in thin crepes with a
tomato based red sauce.  Huge serving and quite
wonderful...sort of Spanish tasting, vaguely like crab
flavored Spanish rice, only more subtle with hints of
mysterious spices.

Next was a fish course of Lotte (monkfish) accompanied
by a baked tomato filled with anchovy and something else.
Delicious but not as memorable as the two previous
courses (though I was getting increasingly drunk and
out of it so who knows?)  Then came a course of guinea
hen...and for the life of me I can't remember what
else was on the plate, though it was a melange of
some sort.  Actually, I would have expected a meatier
last course...the poultry, as good as it was, seemed
somehow inadequate for this otherwise well constructed meal.
Finally the desert plate filled with incredible stuff
including a chocolate soufflé and some cheese flan which
was so light that it almost flew off the plate.  Incredible!

Then back to the hotel.  I intended to do a little
cruising through the Marais...why waste the buzz?  But
I was knocked out and slept (occasionally waking with
acid reflux, a problem with rich food & old age) until
10:30.  This hotel is so quiet!  I never hear a sound
from anywhere, so sleep is easy.

Paris, Sunday Sept. 16

Called Air France and they confirmed that my flight back on
Monday night was going as scheduled.  In retrospect, I wish
I had given them my hotel phone number at that time, since
things were going to change, all unbeknownst to me at the time.

It was so late by the time I showered and shaved (11AM)
that I skipped breakfast entirely, except for execrable coffee
I got from McDonalds...serves me right; but I thought
at least at this American dive I'd get a good cup of American

After a short internet session I had a couple of hours
until my movie at 2PM.  It was pouring when I left the
internet lounge, the first real rain of the whole trip
(though it only lasted a short while.)  I ducked into an
Asian fast food place and had a nice spring roll and a Thai
style curried chicken dish.  Very tasty and different
from the normal French fare I'd been having.  Then took the
Metro to the end of the line to see La Défence and the new
Grande Arch there.  It's quite spectacular.  The entire area is a
new city of modern architecture...sort of a Century
City only much more huge and spectacular.  I decided I didn't
have time to take the elevator to the top of the Arch; but I did
climb the marble stairs to the surface level and caught the
spectacular views, one of which is straight back to the Arc
du Triumph along the straight concourse.  The French still
have such a perfect sense of style when it comes to their modern

Then Metro back to Triumph to go to a little cinema
playing an American movie I'd missed called Series 7 as part
of one of the many mini-film festivals playing in Paris all
the time (what a magical cinematic banquet is Paris!).
I loved the film...about a reality TV show where the
contestants really kill each other.  The winner is the
survivor who remains alive at the end.  I wonder if the
French people in the audience got all the subtle digs at
American reality TV in the film?

Then on to the Louvre, where my museum pass once again
worked like a charm in bypassing the line of at least 300
people waiting for entry at the Pyramid and allowing me
to enter at the Richelieu porte with no wait at all.  I was very
impressed by the new Richelieu wing.  The recreation of the
Rubens' suite of 21 paintings for the Palais Luxembourg which
had been commissioned by Marie de Medici was fantastic.  And once
again a Bronzino was the hit of the entire
Italian boy dressed entirely in black with incredible
detailing in the blacks (how he achieved this is a
great mystery).  Also the incredible Caravaggios, Da Vincis,
Rafaels and Botecellis on view in the huge vaulted main salle
made for a memorable experience, even though I'd done that
part of the Louvre thoroughly before in 1963.

After 2 hours I was museumed out.  Back to the hotel
for a brief nap and then to meet friends at their
hotel for 6 of us to go back to the same corner bar on the
Rue aux Orses for cocktails (another perfect frozen
Margarita) and then a restaurant called Aux Trois
Petits Cochons for dinner.

I was seated next to a foursome of gay men about my
age who turned out to be from Silverlake, in L.A. of all
places.  Since this is famed as a gay restaurant in
Paris, it isn't so surprising...but it is a small
world.  They weren't particularly friendly; but they
did wish me a good trip home at the end of the meal.

The food was actually pretty mediocre.  The opening
course was the best: a salad on top of a cake of warm
cheeses.  I had lamb as the next course, which was
actually a fairly cheap cut in a nice wine reduction sauce
with big white beans on the side.  Ned went crazy ordering
two bottles of a '96 Margaux appellation (at 390 frf each)
which was spectacularly good, robust and full bodied, by far
the best wine I had the whole trip.  The white
Sancerre wasn't close to that level.  Dessert was
disappointing, too, of boiled fruit in a sweet sauce.
But the company was great.   We walked back to the
Marais and I said goodbye to my companions for the
last time this trip; and then back to the hotel for a
good night's sleep.  No night life for this boy.  I guess
I'll have to do the fantastic gai Paris night scene in
another life.

Paris Monday, Sept. 17

Nothing much planned except for movies today; and then early
to the airport, trying to get there 3 hours before my 7:30PM
 flight time because of the new security requirements.

I packed and decided that the hotel breakfast would be perfect
this least the coffee was great, and today I
discovered that they also had French yogurt (which I adore)
and fruit along with the croissant and roll.

I got to the cinema at Les Halles (one of those great stadium
seating multiplexes which abound in the world today...but this
one had particularly comfortable seats and great sound and picture.)
The movie, called Human Nature, was terrible.  And it was written
by Charlie Kaufman, too, the promising writer of Being John
Malkovich.  What a disappointment.  Then I hiked to
the other cinema in Les Halles, on the minus 4th floor right
next to the noisy Metro tracks, for another terrible American
movie that I'd missed on first run.

I had noticed a little stall with cheap  DVDs somewhere
in the Beaubourg...but I didn't quite remember where it was.  On
my way back to the hotel to reclaim my suitcase, I searched high
and low through all the little alleys and streets for it, since I didn't
buy anything when I first noticed it.  Finally, in despair, I turned
into the last alley before heading to my hotel...and there it was.  I'm
so lucky.  I picked up a DVD of Demi's Les Desmoiselles de
Rochefort for 99 Frf and felt my trip to Paris was complete.

Then I claimed my suitcase from the hotel, and took the Metro to
Triumph for the bus ride to Charles de Gaulle airport.  But
when I arrived at the airport I was told that the U.S. authorities had forced
Air France to cancel the flight (the flight itself was diverted to Tokyo,
with other passengers, of course.)  The airline was very nice to me
and put me up at the airport hotel Sofitel and gave me vouchers
for airline meals for dinner and breakfast the next day, even
though they said that technically they weren't obliged to do this
since the flight cancellation wasn't their fault.

I had to decide whether to go back into Paris and maybe catch
a movie, or stay at the airport.  The timing made a trip back to
the city an iffy proposition.  So I wasted my last night in Paris
by just staying at the airport hotel.  The dinner that the hotel
provided for all the people stuck by missed connections was
horrible - virtually inedible boiled fish of some mysterious
provenance.  The other Americans at the table insisted
that they don't eat they were served a
delicious looking 1/2 chicken.  The squeaky wheel wins
again.  I suffered through the fish - but I turned my
nose up at the execrable red plonk wine they served.
My other companions at table last night at the hotel
were a trio of extremely nice Catalan businesspeople
(though surely the boy was too young; he seemed to be
in his early 20s, though he said that had spent a year in
Nebraska on business recently and all three had excellent English.)
They were on the way to China on business.  They make medicine
out of cow tendons...thus Nebraska which has lots of cows.  Also
at my table were some pleasant chaps from Manchester who
had horrible stories to tell of unpleasant airport searches the day before
in England.

At least breakfast was nice Tuesday morning; chocolate
croissants! Good coffee!  I got to the airport 3 hours
early for my flight since I had nothing better to do.
At that hour of the morning there was no problem passing
security...nothing like the lines I saw the previous afternoon.
Then I saw that my flight was "delayed", with no further word as
to when it would take off.  So I grabbed an internet terminal
in the business class lounge and hogged it for two hours while
I wrote my journal and caught up on e-mail.  And plotzed at
the American stock market's rapid descent on its first day back.

The plane wasn't all that late departing.  After an hour or
so on the ground we were off for a very quick 10 1/2 hour direct flight
with the best airplane food I've ever had (two complete dinners
 with a very fine Bordeaux) over the pole to L.A. and the end of
my grand, if rushed, tour of the European capitals.

--Ken Rudolph
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