[narcissism, vanity, exhibitionism, ambition, vanity, vanity, vanity]


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.

Some notes:

-- 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.

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Wheels down in Torino at 14:00; wifi-enabled, with cell phone, hubby, all the luggage and one wiped-out kid, in under 90 minutes, including cab from airport. Been such a homebody lately I wasn't sure how I'd manage. Flight anxiety wholly dissipated by the time we passed just south of Reykjavik. I can still do this. More than that, I've missed it.

Lots of French spoken here. Val d'Isere just an hour away. Saw Lac Geneve on the way in.

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A Hotel Called The Library

This hotel in Thailand is called The Library. It really does have a library. Also, a red pool. Hmm.

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The Pitcher Inn, VT

Architect David Sellers, proprietor of The Pitcher Inn has taken old home restoration to a whole other level. The old structure is still mostly the same. But each guest room has been decorated to the teeth according to a various Vermont themes, from skiing to Chester Arthur. This place is definitely not the W, where the place is designed primarily to disappear while you're in it. Rather, the idea is, apparently, to inhabit someone else's extremely well-kitted out fantasy for a while.

Which has something to do with shopping. On the Pitcher Inn's web site, there's a blurb from some travel writer who remarked that staying at the Pitcher Inn was like "staying inside the J. Peterman catalogue."

On the other hand, if you feel like it, you can buy the furniture at the W, too.

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A great idea: 10 sq meters of your own high-end high-tech private space, rentable while stuck at Heathrow. Coming soon to an airport near me, I hope...

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Jet-Lagged & Useless

I am briefly in Munich, trying to work and not succeeding. What I learned today: Nineteenth century Egyptologists [J-STOR; sub required] thought the djed symbol represented a nilometer, but these days no one is at all sure what it means. Well, that ties up one loose end in the new book. Sort of.

I went to the bookstore though, and found (but did not buy) Die Fliegende Berg, a new novel by Christoph Ransmayr... I also read something by Emine Sevgi Ozdamarwho is a very fine, lucid, thoughtful writer who deserves to be better known; I only wish I had more time to do a proper translation of at least the first piece in Der Hof im Spiegel. Silke Scheuermann is very good also, but her new novel Die Stunde zwischen Wolf und Hund isn't in bookstores yet even though the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung is publishing tantalizing bits of it. Grr.

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Boston for Bibliophiles

Anne Fernald's paean to Boston's bookstores made me homesick for the place. She missed Schoenhofs, though, and post-book-buying tea at Algiers. (She preferred Pamplona.)

Later: MJ rightly points out that I have forgotten the (now closed, and much missed) Avenue Victor Hugo used bookshop, as well as the Trident.

The Book Fair happens next week...

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