Jane: "France Is FUN."
Lots to say about our trip, but I can't say much until I've located the cable to download all the pix, without which I would actually have to write descriptions, making the blog posts much too long. Perhaps the cable is still on vacation.
-- Turin's Egyptology museum begins with an exhibit of a 6,000 year-old corpse buried with full kit for the afterlife. After food and shelter, it seems the first task of civilization is to make sense of death. We have nothing on the ancient Egyptians in this regard. They made thanatology into a glorious art.
-- At the Museum of Cinema in Turin it seems almost possible to dream with your eyes open. Riding the glass elevator to the top of the building is something to do once, but not more than that, and certainly not directly after eating. A restorative campari and soda is available in the cafe when it's over.
-- Did I mention campari and soda?
-- The Piedmontese know how to eat. The hazelnut may be its own food group. Snacks and an aperitif at 6 pm are de rigeur. Snacks are served buffet-style in many places and they are substantial enough to be a meal on their own.
-- The second-floor of the bookstore on the Piazza Vittorio Veneto is quiet, with places to sit, and it is stocked with interesting new titles, including a pamphlet-sized essay, for 3 euros, on the upheavals of 1968 by Erri Deluca which I now regret not buying. The proprietor selects music according to his mood; delightfully, in the middle of a downpour, he played a selection of rain-related songs (including, of course, "Singing in the Rain" and Jovanotti's Piove, which is surprisingly better than anything I've heard by this guy, who has always been a bit of joke between me and MJ, and not only us).
-- The bookstore-cafe is a marvelous thing. So, too, the high-end gelato and sorbet at GROM. The almond (mandorla) granita tasted just like frozen marzipan. Which is probably just what it was. In any case, it was delicious.
-- Don't eat at the Porto di Savona, no matter what the the New York Times says. Instead, take the via Giovanni Plana away from the Piazza Vittorio Veneto to Rubirosa. The pasta dish with frutti di mare -- mussels, clams, squid, shrimp -- was amazing. MJ got a gratis sample of a local favorite, vitello tonnato -- a very thin slice of veal smothered in a tuna-flavored mayonnaise-y sauce -- just because he expressed an interest in it.
-- The overnight train to from Turin to Perpignan was a once-in-a-lifetime sort of thing. Like Sanrio Puroland in Tokyo, it was fun to do -- once. Perhaps twice, but only if you go all the way to Barcelona.
-- The train ride from Montpellier to Paris made me realize how poorly I have understood Van Gogh until now. His landscapes only seem whimsical. Those Dr. Seuss trees and golden haystacks are straight from real life.
-- The Mediterranean really is that blue.
-- While in Paris with children, if you discover a county fair in full swing in the Tuilieries, forget the Louvre. Take the euros you save on museum admission and spend them on tickets to ride the bumper cars and the ferris wheel. Cotton candy is barbe du papa. Expect to be tickled in the Haunted House. Remember, in the 18th century and before, you had to go all the way to the outskirts of town to have this much fun.
-- In Paris, if you find an enticing rare book in an out-of-the-way bookstore on the Rue des Archives but don't have the nerve to buy it, don't worry because it will be waiting for you in the exact same place on the shelf when you return a year later. I love Paris.