Saturday, September 5, 2009

Beers #7 and #8 (Tripel Karmeliet and Kilkenny)

Ok... I know this is getting old, but I am committed.

Beer #7 was a wonderful Tripel Karmeliet (or here in Dutch which you can translate with Google). Belgian beers oftenimes come in Singles, Dubbels, and Tripels (yes that is the correct spelling), which refers to the amount of malt, and therefore the alcohol content. More malt, more to ferment, more alcohol. Read about it here:

Dubbels and tripels generally have rich malt aromas with raisiny or fruit esters. Tripels may even have a citrus-like essence, with mild to moderate clove spiciness. There should be no detectable signs of butterscotch or diacetyl. They may have a balance of moderate hoppiness, or may only have a faint touch of pleasant bitterness. There should be no roasted malt aromas.

Dubbels are generally a dark amber to rich brown in color. Tripels mimic tones from golden sunlight to the rich amber of a topaz gem. The head retention varies, and may be adversely affected by the high alcohol content. Tripels, however, are usually highly effervescent, without disturbing the smooth body feel.

This beer was out of bottle rather than on tap, but it was still quite good.

Beer #8 was last night at WOS Bar, which does not serve Belgian beers but has a wide selection of other international beers.

I had a Kilkenny, an Irish Beer. It was dark so the picture didn't come out well (despite Alex's best effort to light it up with his iPhone screen!)

It was ok but not as great as the other Belgian beers I have gotten spoiled by.

Beautiful Cool Late Summer Day

Hi in the 60s, clear skies. Just enough crisp in the air to let you know fall is around the corner.

My favorite kind of weather.

Today we are going to Versailles tonight. RER C appears to take you all the way and night prices are cheaper. Evening is also best for photos. The light is less direct and lends itself to beautifully balanced pictures. We'll see. At least I know my battery is charged this time!

Don't know what else we have planned for the afternoon (since we didn't get up till 11a, there are no plans for the morning!) but the Louvre is tomorrow (again I think tickets are discounted on Sunday).

Tired of Working. Time to Have Fun.

It has been a relentlessly busy week because of work. Since Tuesday, it seems like I have been doing nothing but sit in front of my computer and take brief breaks to stop by the Beer Academy. Not what I had planned. I had hoped to have all this done before I came to Paris.

No more... time to enjoy Paris. I'll work when I find the time.

Heidi and Stephen arrived yesterday and now I get to play a little.

Amanda, Stephen, and Heidi all worked together to cook stuffed cornish hens for dinner last night. They all assisted each other in consuming several bottles of wine. At least they acted like they had consumed several bottles of wine.

But the food was yummy. Amanda is doing well working her way through her Provence cookbook.

Then after 10p, we met Alex (new friend from last week I talked about in last weekend's posts) at a new bar -- WOS Bar -- near the Pantheon on Rue Saint Jacques.

While Amanda and Stephen and Heidi left a little after 12 (they were understandably tired), Alex and I hung around till 2a. I had beer #8 to be posted soon and we had great conversation. I always love expanding my perspective by listening to the challenging experiences of others around the world. As Americans, we live in something of a bubble and while I am reasonably well-read on international affairs, there is no substitute for talking to people who actually live somewhere else.

Alex and his wife Andrea are from Romania and left soon after communism fell in 1989 and have lived in Paris for 20 years. I never spent a lot of time thinking about how wrenching that transition had to be for so many eastern europeans.

WOS Bar has three things that will cause me to switch from the Beer Factory:

1. It is an International Bar (formerly Australian Bar) and all employees must speak English
2. They have Wi-Fi so I can use my iPhone or MacBook Air to connect to the internet
3. They show NFL football. They are even working on Monday Night games (which would be broadcast at 3a on Tuesday morning here!)

This could become my new office!

Unless.... I go to The Highlander instead, a Scottish Pub I was told about at WOS, located just on the left bank near Pont Neuf. They already show Monday Night Football.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Rainy Friday Greeting for Friends

Amanda's sister, Heidi, and her boyfriend Stephen are arriving this morning and will be welcomed by mid-50s rainy weather -- the worst we've had since we've been here.

Heidi and Stephen will be here for 8 days and it will be fun so see some of the sites with them. There are a lot of the more typical tourist destinations we have deferred until now so that we could get situated.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The $3500/hr Plumber's Assistant

When we first moved into our apartment, things weren't quite what we had hoped. It did not appear that the apartment had been cleaned after the previous tenant. I found an Arab newspaper under the bed, the walls were dirty with scuff marks (including one prominent shoe print in the bedroom), there were food crumbs under the dining room table, light bulbs were out, door handles were broken, the springs in the couch had sprung and no one would dare want to sit on it anyway, the DVD player did not work, the bath towels stunk, etc, etc, etc.

In short, it did not look like the cute, immaculate apartment in the pictures on the website.

Those items we could fix or adapt to we did. We bought new towels, covered the couch, washed everything (linens and dishes), wiped down the kitchen and walls. But there were some things we couldn't do....

Like the kitchen sink drain that stopped up on about our 3rd day here. On Sunday, Aug 23rd, we bought two bottles of Drano which failed to clear the drain. We contacted the management office who said they would take care of it.

Several inches of dirty, stinky water continued to sit in the sink and we waited... and waited... and waited.

We continued to send email and talk on the phone to the management office where Cedric, the owner of the management office I believe, was on holiday (it being August in Paris). We kept getting assurances that they were working on it but nothing was getting done.

Finally, yesterday, after about 10 days and more broken promises, Amanda noticed a plumber's store next door. We had not noticed it before because, well, all the stores in the neighborhood had been closed for August and everything was finally opening back up.

So I told her to ask them if they could take a look at our sink and tell us what it would cost to fix it. If the amount was reasonable, I would pay it and seek reimbursement from the management company. In any case, we had run out of patience and decided we had to do something.

This was at 4p. They told Amanda to return at 4:20p which she did. At 5p, she and nice eager Arab young man returned. He looked at it, said no problem, left, and returned with his equipment.

I was up in the loft working (having not slept for the previous 30 hours -- I stayed up all night working) and suddenly heard him cutting with a saw on something.

Whatever, I thought. How much could it be? 50 Euros? 100 Euros tops. I assumed he had to cut to see what the problem was so he could tell us how much.

10 minutes later, he stopped.

We asked how much it would cost to fix.

Now, you have to understand when I say we asked, he didn't speak English and we didn't speak French, so my question and his answer did not exactly constitute a real conversation.

He got on the phone and we first heard the number 2000 Euros! Then we heard 1000 Euros because we are in the 5th Arrondissement. Nice.

Finally, another man showed up. Another Arab man, perhaps 40, who was apparently the owner of the plumber shop. In any case, he appeared to be the boss of the man who now claimed to have fixed our sink. He demanded payment first of 499 Euros, then 405 Euros. For 10 minutes work. (I think all his assistant did was cut off the old P-trap and replace it.)

I told him I would not pay, that we did not ask them to fix the sink, only to tell us what it would cost to fix. If we had known it was 405 Euros, we would not have asked them to do it. We just wanted an estimate.

He insisted that I have to pay -- "I do not work for free."

He pulled out his certification and a price sheet and kept saying "Farfaits. Farfaits" (which we later translated to mean "Forfeit"). Also, he said estimates are not required on jobs under 500 Euros (which would explain why the price dropped to 499 Euros, before 405 Euros). When you ask the plubmer next door to LOOK at your problem, you are apparently agreeing to pay him to FIX the problem.

In any case, it appears there is a government-regulated flat rate price for certain jobs and in this case the rate was 350 Euros plus 55 Euros for something (I couldn't figure it out).

He insisted I pay. I insisted I wouldn't.

We were at a standoff. I didn't know what to do.

I asked for his cell-phone to call Cedric the manager, who I had yet to meet.

[I had received an email earlier saying he would stop by on Friday. I replied that was unacceptable and that a plumber was already here. He replied that I did not have permission to call a plubmer. I replied that we had waited 10 days and he had not solved the problem so, as far as I was concerned, I DID have permission to call the plubmer.]

I called Cedric and put him on the phone with the Plumber (plombier in french). After a long animated conversation in French between the two. (I lived in Israel for 3 months. I know how middle-easterners negotiate and it can be entertaining to watch their animation.)

Finally, he passed the phone back to me and I talked to Cedric. The 30% of what he said that I understand said to pay the plumber and that he would reimburse me. He said a lot else but I didn't catch it all. He will come on Friday and we will discuss the apartment.

So, 10 minutes of work for 400 Euros by a plumber's assistant comes out to 2400 Euros/hour (or about $3500/hr). And this plumber actually had the nerve to act like he really genuinely deserved it ("I do not work for free" he kept saying in his thick accent).

I will have to find out more how all this works, but my guess is there is a plumber's union that has convinced the government to allow these extortionist prices. I can't believe anyone in France would pay this so I'm not quite sure what to make of it.

I definitely think they took advantage of the situation. I don't think they actually believed we wold have agreed to let them fix my sink for 400 Euros had we known the price in advance. No one would have agreed to that.

Of course, he wanted cash. He would not take a credit card. So I walked down to the BNP Paribus on the corner, came back with cash, and paid him.

His eager, friendly assistant -- apparently proud that he had fixed our sink so quickly -- shook my hand, then Amanda's, and that was that.

[Addendum: Having talked to Amanda more about it, it turns out that the plumber's assistant was not already next door (as I thought)... only a person who manages the desk. Maybe he is like a taxicab dispatcher that takes calls and sends the plumbers to their next job. In any case, the young man came from his previous job somewhere else. Had I know that was the situation, I would not have asked Amanda to do it. I assumed someone next door could take a quick look and tell me what it would cost to fix it. Instead, someone next door called someone who was out on another job to come do our job. And I guess he thought it was his job to fix the problem. And then it was the manager's job to show up and give us the bill.]

[Addendum #2: I forwarded my blog article to Alex, my new friend and 20 years resident of Paris and he replied:

Sorry for your problems; the guy took advantage of you. First he should have presented you a written estimate (for any work exceeding 150 EUR). Allowing that he understood you were already accepting any price (being filthy rich Americans) he shouldn't have charged you more than cca 250 EUR tops. But, on the other hand it is well known that plumbers are among the costliest hazards in Paris, so...


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tipping in Paris Restaurants

One of the more confusing aspect of eating in Paris is how much to tip. I have been told that "service" in included at some restaurants and not at others, at their discretion, so I always end up having to ask awkward questions (made even more awkward by the fact I don't speak French).

I Prefer Paris has cleared this up for me with his blog post today:

So here is the the simple truth about tipping in Paris and the rest of France: A 15% tip is ALWAYS included in your bill, regardless of what the waiter or anyone else says. Again, it's a French law that the tip is included. If they say it's not included, they are lying and trying to rip you off. If you are charging a meal, notice there is no tip box on the credit card receipt. It's because the tip is included.

With that said, it is customary to leave a 3 to 5% gratuity in cash on the table. For instance, if you have a lunch that costs 20 euros, you should leave a one euro or 75 centimes gratuity. For a coffee, leave 25 centimes.

So there.

We are NOT on vacation; we are on life.

Some may be under the impression that we are on an 11-week Paris vacation.

We are not.

The confusion I suppose is understandable because most people divide their lives into work and vacation -- a lot of work and a little vacation. When they are working, they are not vacationing, and when they vacation, they don't work (in theory!). Nonetheless, the work/vacation mentality still exists, especially when "vacation" is something you have to schedule and is limited to 2-4 weeks out of the year.

A number of years ago, Amanda and I were at a resort in Jamaica and I would spend a couple hours in the internet cafe each day checking on my business (this was back in the "dial-up" days). Several of the other guests we mingled with would admonish me for working on my vacation. I replied I wasn't working on my vacation, I was vacationing while I work. I just moved my office to Jamaica for 9 days! That is what I mean by a different attitude about vacation and work.

In our case, we just have "life" and we "do" life in different locations when we want to experience something different. This happens to be our biggest experiment at this philosophy. "Work" is one of the activities of my life (because the laws of economics still apply!) but since my business is internet-based and my income is not dependent on hours worked and I do not report to a boss (unless you count my wife!) and neither does my wife (unless you count me) then we are limited only by our own priorities.

We did not come to Paris to VACATION; we came to see what it was like to LIVE here, which includes working. I simply moved my office here and it is now part of my life in Paris, just as it is when I'm in Charlotte.

Thus, this is not all "fun." We have many of the same transition adjustments of moving into a new apartment in a new city... finding the right store for the right item, finding restaurants, learning our way around (roads and metro), dealing with the landlord when things aren't right (!), meeting new people, and, in this case, we have to do all that without knowing the language!

Trust me, it can be quite frustrating and discouraging at times. And quite exhilarating invigorating at others. We are forced to operate outside our normal comfort zone. (I DO miss the comforts of my house and home-office at times.) However, like physical exercise, which is not always pleasant, the reward comes in seeing yourself grow by enlarging your world of experiences.

So, yes, we try to have "fun" as much as we can because we are limited to only 11 weeks and we have to cram "Paris Life" into a shorter time than if we were actually making a permanent life here.

But we are not on vacation.

All-Nighter and Emergency Siren

As I suggested in my last post, I have to work.

I haven't been to bed since I got up late yesterday morning. It's now just past noon.

Three Red Bulls. Dinner last night. Breakfast and lunch at my desk today. I did take a shower thank you very much ;)

A little "happy hour" break yesterday for Beer #7 (Brusge Zot) at Beer Academy -- I will post pic later -- is the only time I have been out of the apartment.

Today a loud siren went off outside.

We noticed it was exactly noon. It is the first day of school so I thought it might have something to do with that.

A quick Google search however revealed the following:

Nationwide, every first Wednesday of the month at noon (12:00), the emergency sirens which operate nationwide are tested. The sirens can be heard wailing as the are tested in three sequences of 1 minute 41 seconds each, separated by a silence of five seconds.


There was another siren burst at 12:10. Don't know what that was about.

Now, can I make it two nights in a row.

Like I said, I REALLY have a lot of work to do.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Rainy Day

A good day to stay in and get all the work done I need to get done before Heidi and Stephen arrive on Fri morning.... followed by my sister and family... followed by Brittain and Brandon... followed by my daughters (and friends)!!

I got three days to get 3 weeks of work knocked out.

Good thing my wife stocked up on Red Bull!

Upcoming September Events

Check out Eye Prefer Paris for some very cool upcoming events;

1. Diana Krall. Check. Already got my tickets.
2. The Gentry de Paris Revue. Ooh-la-la. Gotta get tickets. [Correction. Tickets got!)
3. Joan Mitchell in Giverny (through Oct 31). Didn't need an excuse to visit Giverny (Monet's Garden) but now we have a good one.
4. Fete de Jardins (Garden Festival) (Sep 26-27)

Lily Allen Concert

Got my Lily Allen tickets at FNAC yesterday.

Concert is Tue, Oct 22 at 8p at Le Zénith de Paris, in the 4th arrondissement on Rue de Rivoli.

Yeah, I know. I will probably the oldest person there (except for my wife) by 20 years but, hey, I like her music and I'm in Paris.

If you haven't heard of her, you've probably heard a couple of her songs on the radio. She's a 24 years old English music singer and songwriter. She is a combination of pop, techno, and ska and reminds me of a young Gwen Stefani (No Doubt) or Katy Perry. She is even copying the Stefani playbook by branching out into fashion. My favorite song is The Fear. Her career was largely launched through her MySpace page.

She is also something of a wacko. Ok, not a wacko, that's too strong (and not nice). She's unconventional, carefree, and independent. Yeah, that's it. She's unconventional, carefree and independent.

But, like I said, I like her music and the concert should be a blast.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Where to Buy an Electric Beard Trimmer in Paris

Don't go to FNAC. Tried that.

Don't go to Le Bon Marche. Tried that.

Don't go to Galeries Lafayette (Montparnasse) nor any of the other stores in that mall. Tried that.

Go to Darty!

That's right. Darty. You've heard of Darty haven't you? I thought so.

Darty is an electronics and appliance store located at 80 Avenue of Maine 75014 PARIS in the 14th arrondissement, very close to the Montparnasse Tower. Actually, it has over 200 stores but this is the closest location to us.

As you recall, I fried the electric beard trimmer I brought over, not realizing it couldn't handle the 220Hz outlets here.

In any case, I got me a nice little Remington model for about $50.

Of course, it's only for 9 more weeks. I don't think it will do me much good after that.

Maybe I'll give it to Alex.

Hey, Alex, you want a beard trimmer?

What's Up With The Weather?

Oh, by the way, it hit 86 today and at 1a in the morning it is still 72! It's been in the mid-50s at night and in the mid 70s in the day lately so I don't know where the one day heat wave came from.

Still can't complain... not a cloud in the sky.

The forecast however is for a little bit of rain I think. A good excuse to get some work done.

12th Anniversary of Princess Diana's Death

I am currently reading Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman, a very clever book that creates 40 vignettes --most are just a few pages -- of the afterlife, each uniquely provocative and a little creepy (but in a good way of course). How he thought up each of these 40 tales is beyond me.

One of my favorites is "Metamorphosis" which begins:

There are three deaths. The first is when the body ceases to function. The second is when the body is consigned to the grave. The third is that moment, sometime in the future, when your name is spoken for the last time.

So you wait in this lobby until the third death. There are long tables with coffee, tea, and cookies; you can help yourself. There are people here from all around the world, and with a little effort you can strike up convivial small talk. Just be aware that your conversation may be interrupted at any moment by the Callers, who broadcast your new friend's name to indicate that there will never again be another remembrance of him by anyone on the Earth. You friend slumps, face like a shattered and reglued plate, saddened even thought the Callers tell him kindly that he's off to a better place.
Not everyone is sad when the Callers enter the room and shout out the next list of names. On the contrary, some people beg and plead, prostrating themselves at the Callers' feet. These are generally the folks who have been here a long time, too long, especially those who are remembered for unfair reasons. For example, take the farmer ove rthere, who drowned in a small river two hundred years ago. Now his farm is the site of a small college, and the tour guides each week tell his story. So he's stuck and he's miserable. The more his story his told, the more the details drift. He is utterly alienated from his name; it is no longer identical with him but continues to bind.

I think it is fair to say that Princess Diana will be waiting for her third death for quite some time.

Today marks the 12th anniversary of her tragic death right here in Paris. She actually died on the night of August 30 but the accident occurred around 12:23a, just minutes after her car departed from the Ritz Hotel, and she was declared dead around 4a.

Full details on the accident can be read here.

The path of the vehicle is shown in the map below. The marker in the upper left hand corner is the location of Dodi Fayed's apartment, which is where they were apparently heading when they left the Ritz Hotel from the less conspicuos back entrance (see marker to the right), but instead of turning right at Champs Elysees in the Place de la Concorde, the driver Jean-Paul continued to the Cours La Reine along the Seine River. Perhaps he intended to circle back to the apartment after eluding the paparazzi. The Eiffel Tower is in the bottom left hand corner where the Google logo is.

View Diana's Last Drive in a larger map

In any case, he was driving too fast, especially since the road both turns to the left slightly and dips just as you enter the tunnel, which goes under the start of the Pont de l'Alma on the right bank, just a few hundred yards from the Eiffel Tower across the river. The result was a catastrophic accident that killed 3 people, including Diana.

I decided to visit what has become an unofficial memorial to Diana -- The Flame of Liberty -- which is situated on the end of the bridge above the tunnel in which her car crashed. (The tunnel itself is not accessible by pedestrians.) It is a 3.5 meter high, full-sized, gold-leaf-covered, replica of the flame at the upper end of the torch carried in the hand of the Statue of Liberty and was donated to Paris in 1989, well before Diana's death.

I left about 9:30p tonight, hopped on the RER B at Port Royal, switched to RER C at St-Michel Notre-Dame station and got off a the Pont de l'Alma station which is actually on the opposite side of the bridge from the memorial. After walking across the bridge, I set up my tripod, attached my camera, got everything in position and ..... the battery for my camera was dead. No, this cannot be happening.

So, I have for you, not a 10 megapixel, time-lapsed picture with my professional Nikon D-80 camera, but a pathetic iPhone pic to remember Diana's 12th death anniversary. Actually, two iPhone pics -- one of just the flame and the other with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

As it turns out there was no big crowd. Don't know if there was any official -- or unofficial -- ceremony earlier in the day there. Groups of two or three kept straggling by, spaced just perfectly enough apart to require me to wait some 15 minutes before I could get a picture without visitors in the way. But I waited patiently, still in disbelief that my camera battery was dead becuase I had left the camera on the last time I used it.

After taking the pictures, I looked over a few of the tokens of remembrance, which included pictures, flowers, and notes. It actually was not as packed as I expected.

And then I left. I retraced my RER rides and was home by 11p.

Oh, and I am charging my camera battery. I won't make the mistake again.

In the meantime, Diana will, whether she like it or not, probably be waiting a long time before here name is never mentioned again.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Beer #6 - Grimbergen

At the end of our day at the park golfing (see earlier post), we stopped at the Horse's Tavern near the Odeon Theatre and had a beer.

This place had beers from everywhere but I chose a Grimbergen blond (Belgium) on tap.

Again, a very nice, smooth, slightly sweet beer. I had no trouble with the pint serving (50cl) without feeling bloated. I'm starting to acquire a taste for this beer stuff.

Ignore the name on the glass. I guess they were out of Grimbergen 50 cl glasses. Ina ordered a smaller size and got an authentic glass so I know they have them:

PS (8/31) I ended up having a Grimbergen then next day at the Beer Academy. The blonde version is apparently called a Tripel. The one I had yesterday was 50cl draft; this was 33cl in a bottle. I love getting my beer served in a branded bottle :)

Beer #5 - 1664

Between hitting golf balls (as I described in previous post) we took a break for lunch. The outdoor cafe only had one beer -- 1664 (French) -- so that is what I ordered.

It is from the Kronenburg Brewery which was founded in, you guessed it, 1664. Hence the name. It is considered the best premium beer in France.

I thought it was quite good. Not bitter, not sweet. Light. Very smooth and refreshing.

Check out this commercial:

Paris Concerts

One of the benefits of living in a world-class city is the events it attracts.

I purchased tickets for a variety of concerts before I arrived:

1. Diana Krall (Tue, Sep 15 at Olympia Hall) Just Amanda and I.
2. Elton John w/ Roy Cooper (Fri, Oct 2 at Palais des Congres). Brittain and Brandon will join us.
3. Green Day (Sun, Oct 4 at Bercy). Brittain and Brandon will join us.
4. Fleetwood Mac (Sat, Oct 17 at Zenith de Paris). Both my daughters, one boyfriend and one girlfriend will join us.

I am hoping to get Lily Allen tickets for Thu, Oct 22 at Zenith de Paris. We'll see. Just Amanda and I.

Also, Coldplay is here at Parc de Princes on Sept 7 but it is sold out. Hope to scalp tickets but, again, we'll see. Would go with Heidi (Amanda's sister) and Stephen.

Not a bad run of concerts, huh?

I'm checking into other big events. Maybe a European Football (i.e. soccer) match. Maybe a horse race. Who knows?

Our New Friends Alex and Andrea

Frank and Dawn, our friends from the states who spent I think 6 years in Paris (their apartments are very close to ours) referred us to their Romanian friends Alex and Andrea who have lived in Paris for 20 years and live just up the road on Blvd St Michel.

Amanda arranged a friendly tennis match in the Luxembourg Gardens on Sat at 5p. I haven't played tennis in 7 years and my wife plays like 6 days a week back in the states.

I slept in after a late night at the Eiffel and then business issues until 3a!

After working on a Sat until almost 5, I met them for tennis.

What a fun couple they were.

We played friendly, but not very good, tennis for an hour. First Amanda and I played Alex and Andrea in a set and then the guys took on the girls for half a set before our time ran out.

Afterwards we went home and changed and met for dinner.

They introduced us to a nice local restaurant close to the Pantheon -- Les Fontaines (The Fountains) at 9 rue Soufflot. Alex and Andrea (and I should not neglect their son Dimitri, 11) both speak English and French, which was very useful.

After a cold plate of meats for an appetizer, I very safely selected chicken with potatos for my main course. We shared two bottles of red wine. I finished with creme brulee for desert. By the way, Andrea had steak tartare, otherwise know as RAW ground beef, mixed with onions, capers, and seasonings, served cold. That's right. RAW ground beef. Served cold, thank you very much. And she says she actually like it, she wasn't just showing off or practicing for Fear Factor. Right, Andrea.

Despite having to look at the Steak Tartare, the conversation was wonderful. Very easy couple to enjoy time with.

Even the server, Valerienne, while French, spoke good English, having spent a year in Denver, Colorado.

After dinner we were invited to golf (actually a driving range) the next day at noon. We would be joined by Andrea's sister Ina and her boyfriend Jean-Paul.

Golfing at the Racetrack

The other day, while looking on the internet for other activities while in Paris, I discovered something called the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the most prestigious horse race in Europe. It is held at the Hippodrome Longchamps in the Bois de Boulogne, a large forest/park on the western edge of Paris, (the Bois de Vincennes is the large forest/park on the eastern edge of Paris).

View Larger Map

Bois de Boulogne is over 2000 acres, 2.5 times the size of Central Park. Roland Garros, the site of the French Open (tennis), is located on the edge of the park.

Hippodrome Longchamps was established in 1857 and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is apparently bigger than our Kentucky Derby, with over 30 million people watching worldwide on TV.

This year the race is on Sunday, Oct 4 and as best as I can tell, it is only 8 Euros to be admitted to the grounds which I believe is the infield. Grandstand seats and skyboxes are sold out (and very expensive in any case). Nonetheless, just being present at such an event would be pretty cool so I tentatively put it on the calendar (see bottom of page).

What does this have to do with golf (as the title to this post suggests)?

Well, last night at dinner, our new friends Alex and Andrea invited us to golf with them at the Bois de Boulogne along with Andrea's sister and her boyfriend Jean-Paul.

We met them at their apartment at noon and shared a taxi ride to the park.

As it turns out, the golf is actually just a driving range and series of putting greens along with a pro shop and dining area; it is not a true golf course. However, the location is in the infield of the other hippodrome, Hippodrome d'Auteuil, located in the park -- Golf du Bois de Boulogne. This one is much smaller than Longchamps, but it is a racetrack (although of the Steeplechase variety) nonetheless, with full stands and grass track.

The golf facilities were comparable to a municipal facility in the states. You hit balls off a mat with an artificial tee; the balls were rather used and beat up; the greens were bumpy and slow.

There was an unusual number of women and children. Because the golf facility is free except for the golf balls, it appeared that families from the adjacent apartments would simply walk over and eat and putt for a nice Sunday afternoon's family entertainment. In other words, this was more like a round of putt-putt in the states, except on real grass rather than serious golfers practicing.

Alex had clubs for himself and his son so I borrowed a 3-wood and then a sand wedge and hit a few balls.

Then Alex, Jean-Paul, and I had a little putting competition for about an hour.

In between hitting balls off the mats and putting, we all had a nice lunch (including Beer #5) on the outdoor tables near the greens.

All in all a wonderful afternoon. The weather was a little chilly this morning but it ended up rather sunny and warm... maybe even hit 80.

We caught the metro (M10) back into town (Odeon Station) a little after 4p and met for drinks at the Horse's Tavern at 16 Carrefour de l'Odéon in the 6th arrondissemetn (St Germaine) just down the street from the Odéon Theatre, another one of those amazing structures that just pops up on you when you are just minding your own business drinking a beer at a pub on the street surrounding by 5 story apartments and hotels.

The tavern offers beers from everywhere it seems (including China and Jamaica!). It is here I had Beer #6 while seated at a nice streetside table enjoying conversation about business with Alex and Jean-Paul.

So it is hard to beat a day like this. Wonderful weather, a little golf, a nice lunch outside, and a drink with friends at a tavern down the road from an 18th C theatre inaugurated by Marie Antoinette.

Burned Out My Beard Trimmer - Arggghhh

This morning I went to use my little electric beard and mustache trimmer which I brought with me and it didn't work. While I used the proper adapter, my trimmer apparently doesn't work on both European and American voltages, like most electrical appliances today... it only works on 110 (US). So, it appears it has burned out. It is now good as a paper weight but I am starting to look a little scraggly. Is "scraggly" actually a word? I think so.

I guess I will be a FNAC tomorrow to buy another.