To see my tribute to Flo, go here

See about helping Flo's Haitian artist friends at Jakmel Ekspresyon

Monday, July 19, 2010

End of Italy time, and return home

On Wednesday night a big group of people had dinner at Il Pomarancio, a new place just across the Tiber from the historic center of Umbertide. It goes along with a nice park, having outdoor tables, where we ate. We understood it to be mainly a pizzeria, and they do have a full selection of pizzas, and I had one, but they also have ambitious dishes. Peeking into the inside part of the restaurant, it looked posh.

We had tentatively planned to take the 6 a.m. SULGA bus from Umbertide to Rome airport, but my parents said they were ready to have a taxi do the trip; it was fine for this to happen, given their age and the weight of their luggage. On Thursday morning, we had the ride for €250. That went well, taking us to the airport Hilton, where I had a stay on points.

On my previous stay there, I had asked to be assured that we could get a room that could accommodate three adults, since the Web site information was ambiguous, and was assured this could be done. I checked in and was told to call if the third bed wasn't there. We went to the room, with twin beds, and didn't find any hidden third bed, so we called, and eventually housekeeping set up the third bed.

There we were in comfort and with the benefit of air conditioning, and with the hotel's free bus service to Rome. My mother preferred to sleep through the day; my father and I decided to get lunch at the Ciao cafeteria in Terminal 3 (I had gnocchi al pesto) and take the hotel shuttle, leaving on even-numbered hours, into Rome at 2 p.m. There was a full-sized bus with just a few people going in at that hour. With the lighter siesta-hour traffic, it still took about 45 minutes to get to the bus's destination on via del Teatro Marcello, near the Campidoglio.

When I looked up shows in Rome, my father showed an interest in a show of followers of Caravaggio, at Palazzo Ruspoli. I described the distance from our stop as over a kilometer, although you don't really notice it in those terms when you walk in a city. We thought we would take a city bus, which generally requires buying tickets first; one would think ticket-buying places would be easy to spot right in the center of Rome, but there were no staffed spots at the big end-of-line area by Piazza Venezia, and a newsstand didn't sell them. We started up via del Corso, past one bus stop, before we found a tabaccaio that sold tickets. I said that by this point we would only be riding the bus for one stop, so we'd just buy tickets for the return trip, and walk on to the show, which we did on this very hot day, and I don't know how much of an exertion it was for my father.

We got to the show, which was a disappointment, showing how the followers of Caravaggio didn't live up to the master. For something else to see in the area, I suggested the Ara Pacis Augustae, the ancient altar in Richard Meier's controversial new building. It was interesting to see. We were hardly Slow Traveling; we aimed then to get back to catch the 5 p.m. bus to the hotel. There was a wait for the right bus; we finally got bus 81, the validating machine in front wasn't working, and a lady directed us to a machine in back. That bus also had a ticket selling machine, but I'm not sure if it's known which buses have that.

My father was interested in stopping at a bar if possible; there was a bar across from the bus stop to the Hilton; when we sat outside, each glass of (mediocre) wine cost €7. When the bus turned up, there was the danger of crossing the street in that area, but we made it. In the ride back, I looked with pleasure at the many aspects of Rome on the route, from historic to peripheral, trying to take in the essence of Rome.

When we got back, I explored the airport complex some more, seeing what there was to add to my Web page on it, and we decided to order dinner from room service. I had an ordinary pasta dish, but overall we were satisfied. I went to the hotel bar, and thinking of Shannon's suggestion I had a kir royal, and saw a singer although she was on break for most of the time I was there.

Back to the family hotel room: not sharing a room often, I got a reasonable amount of sleep. with some interruptions. We got up before 6, and were checked out a little later. From reading of others' experience, I knew that we should approach the bell staff, not the check-out staff, about getting a ride to Terminal 5. After a few minutes wait, a van got us to that terminal before 7.

My parents and I were all on Delta flights, but mine was an hour later than theirs. From what I'd found out about the check-in system there, I was expecting the check-in counters to be flight-specific, and they might just open three hours before departure. We were at that mark for my parents' flight, and I was looking at a scenario of trying to get a break to check in with my parents, or having to wait an hour. We entered the terminal as about the first passengers there; at the first checkpoint, where they ask if you packed your own bags, there was a staffed checkpoint designated for my flight four hours ahead. We went by the rules through that and the check-in counter. At my counter there was a delay printing the boarding passes, I think due to a problem with the printer and card stock. We stopped for breakfast at the bar near check-in. Then, still with very few passengers having appeared, it was quick through a pretty normal security check, and exit passport control. Then we boarded the bus across the tarmac to the G satellite, and up the escalators to the gate level.

We followed the arrows to go clockwise around that satellite, although with their gate being 11 when there are 14, it was also possible to turn right and take the shorter route. It was well before 8 a.m. when we got there; some of the shops in the area just opened at 8. With my past memory of 2.5 hours not being early enough, I wanted to check in three hours early; with it being such an early hour we were earlier than we needed to be, but it was nice to go through things with no crowds at all. We could individually stop at shops while the others waited at the gate until my parents' flight to JFK boarded around 9, and I saw them off.

I went to the gate for my flight to Detroit. I lent my pen (actually one that I'd taken from the Hilton) to a passenger, who turned out to be taking a later flight, to fill out his U.S. customs declaration, which is usually filled out in flight. He was slowly filling it out as my flight was boarding; I started to get tense about whether I should say I need to board and take the pen, or just leave it to him. Anyway, he was done just in time for me join the last of those who were boarding when called. I had my assigned seat, and overhead space to put my bulky laptop/shoulder bag. They announced that, by air traffic control request, our 10.55 departure would be delayed past 11.30, and I was just as glad that I didn't board earlier.

The flight itself can be covered briefly: an A330 with seatback screens, for the meal I took tortelloni, my third hot meal in a row that was all pasta, aside from some wilted salad here. At midflight they (some flight attendants in bright red dresses, new to me) came by with snacks for sale, and they didn't offer that or drinks at my row; did that take the place of the late-flight snack? No, it was given: a small pizza snack and ice cream. Even with the late departure, arrival at Detroit was on time, at 3.25.

I had a separate bag for things I wanted to use in flight that I tried to stuff into my laptop bag as I stood in an empty row and let people off the plane ahead of me; it was a struggle, putting me farther back than I needed to be in the passport control line, which moved slowly. I got through without trouble and my bag was on the belt, and I was waved through customs. I was directed to one lane for the through baggage check; there was a spot where I thought I could just put the bag on a belt, but it was unattended, so in doubt I waited at a counter. At the counter they said no, leave it at the belt, which was now attended. Then I was quickly ready for the security check. I thought I was doing my routine of putting anything that might beep the machine into the bag, but in my state after the long flight I forgot the iPod on my waistband. I was sent back to remove that, and beeped the metal detector again.

Here I was sent to the enclosed "penalty box" until someone could deal with me. They took me out and I saw that they were taking me to a Whole Body Imager. I declined to go through that, meaning that I needed to get a heavy-duty patdown, emptying my pockets. They reminded me that it included my shirt pocket; in my state I'd forgotten about it and that it included a small tin of Altoids that I'd gotten in my recent first-class trip on United, and that may have been what set off the alarm. The TSA aims to make the patdown so unpleasant that people will prefer to have the machine view them under their clothes; I'm opting out of the viewing out of principle rather than particularly about my own privacy, but for myself I also don't like having my pockets empty and the contents out of sight. They also made me put up with that and put the tub with my several wallets through the x-ray. I should have insisted on counting all the money and cards in the wallets before they did the check, but it looks like I got everything back.

I had a 4.5-hour layover, meaning I didn't need to add any worries about making the connection. I had a pass to the SkyClub, and took advantage of it to have a few libations after these experiences. My connecting flight was showing a delay, and I called the young man who was caring for my cat and meeting me to update the situation. The connecting flight's gate was at the low-numbered end of the concourse, and the tram from the middle by the club was out of service, so I took the walk with moving sidewalks through the overall nice McNamara terminal at Detroit airport. Both in the terminal and on the plane, people started announcements with "Northwest" and corrected it to "Delta." My flight was delayed from 7.55 to 8.45, with the arrival similarly delayed although it made up some time.

The trip came to an end; I've reported on things without much reflection. It's difficult to come to conclusions now. It was overall a great trip, although I'd have preferred slightly lower temperatures. With the family, there were many bittersweet thoughts and difficult decisions to face in the future.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Italy 2010

This may be my complete album for this trip, or I may take more pictures in Rome, which would be added to this album later.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Weekend: grandi feste

We had an active weekend, hard to piece everything together. Saturday night Barnaby, who was with Flo almost to the end and had been part of the memorials, organized a huge dinner at his family house outside Perugia. Many artist friends went to eat in the yard with a great view of the area at dusk and beyond. It was mainly his sister, who lives there year-round, who prepared a great pasta dish. It was a terrific effort, and we got back at 1 a.m.

On Sunday we did an excursion to Spello. I wasn't sure what the current traffic rules were; there seemed to be restrictions at the entrance at the bottom the town that we usually used; we went around the outside, there were some lots below, but we went up and found a lot outside the walls at the top of the town. We walked around, seeing some nice-looking quiet streets that we didn't remember from previous visits. Our main place of interest in Spello is the church of S. Maria Maggiore. There was a sign in front saying absolutely not to enter while Mass was in progress, and that it closed at noon, which was getting close. We waited outside to see if it would be possible to get in; some people started going in anyway, but Mass was letting out and we had a few minutes to look at the chapel with Pinturicchio frescoes, frequently needing to feed the lights with €1 coins.

We sat down at the outdoor tables at Il Molino, the restaurant that we've long favored. They've gotten exotic, having pasta with fruit and ginger fillings and sauce. I had a mozzarella-fruit combination to start, and the pasta dish called polvere, meaning powder, or breadcrumbs in this context: a nest of taglierini with breadcrumbs and prosciutto.

My mother is not very good with climbing the streets of hill towns, and we decided we would meet at the bottom of the town, after Ken and Lesley went up to get the car. That worked out well, and we decided to take a scenic drive along the backside (considering Assisi to to be on the front) of Monte Subasio. It was a nice, somewhat harrowing drive, although we missed the turn for the super-scenic drive. There was some driving through the small streets of Assisi, which we didn't really want, but we got out o.k.

Sunday night, we were invited to join Graziano's extended family at his sister Franca's house. It was a nice thing to take in: chaotic scenes, a huge amount of food, and a very hot house. We were set up so those who were interested could watch the World Cup final as much as possible past the people facing us. For the second half, we could move to the sofa and see it better, while others sat on the roof terrace. After it was finally over in overtime, we could leave, satisfied with a wonderful meal.

On Sunday my father had noticed that one of his credit cards was missing. He figured that he last used it was on Friday at a rosticceria. On Monday he had me call them; although they were closed, someone answered and said they had the card; they called Visa and, being unable to reach us through those few days, they cut the card. That was fine with my father, who has other cards, and we're generally satisfied that merchants here are responsible.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

More rest, some getting around

Some days are spent with people, mostly my mother, waiting for the plumber and electrician. We also lost wi-fi in the house because of missed communication of how long we were covered. It turned out to be expired, we renewed it, and there was some wait to be set up for it again. I took brief time to connect at a new café, La Torre. Going by the rules, taking brief time to connect to the Internet on our computers while having a drink meant showing ID, getting registered, and getting a cash register receipt with login information. That technician came to the house and we were reconnected, but the frustrating wait for the plumber and electrician continues.

On Friday, my mother stayed home and the rest of us went to Todi. I directed Lesley to park at Porta Orvietana, where there's what they call an elevator, but is more like a funicular, to the town center. Most of my previous visits there have involved looking around the main Piazza del Popolo and eating at the Ristorante Umbria with the great view. After looking around the Piazza and finding the Duomo closed, we did a little more wandering in the medieval streets; going uphill up via L. Leoni, it got much quieter, and we found a street taking us to S. Fortunato church, which otherwise is at the top of a high stairway. We had an interesting visit there; then we found a place on a side street where we could take pizza slices or other small dishes, and eat at a table outside.

Back home, still no resolution to the service calls; we have some nice invitations for the weekend.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Umbertide rest time

We've had a few days of relaxation, not much to report. The people in the house have put good meals together. On Tuesday night, we joined some longtime friends to eat out. The first plan was to go to a new pizza place with tables over large grounds across the Tiber. We found that it was its closing day.

The next choice was to go to Poggiomanente,out of town by the turnoff to Gubbio, which is a mix of full-service restaurant and pizzeria. We found that this was a day that they were not serving pizza, so we went for the full meal; I started with big ravioli with truffles. We had some interest in seeing the Netherlands-Uruguay World Cup semifinal, and were told it was only in the smoking room. For a restaurant to have an indoor smoking section requires a closed door and separate ventilation system; these are so rare that some people on SlowTrav who live in Italy have said that they don't exist, but here was one near Umbertide. The place is a mix of upscale restaurant and truck stop. In fact, as I occasionally looked in on the progress of the match, I found that the door was open and there was a No Smoking sign, because the ventilation system was broken.

Wednesday morning, I've been around the big outdoor market and taken pictures. There's also a project to pretty up the Reggia stream beneath the house, which has been more like a drainage ditch. Wi-fi isn't working in the house, and I'll need to see if it starts working or I spend a lot of time at a café getting connected.

Wednesday update: wi-fi had expired, I renewed it and they need to come in Thursday; we (mostly my mother) are doing a lot of waiting for workers. I'm in a cafe now.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bevagna day

Once we're in Umbertide, there's typically a lot of rest time, but here, after my Saturday arrival, we hit the ground running as the group asked me to suggest a Sunday day trip. I suggested Bevagna, a SlowTrav favorite where I'd been once and the others hadn't. Often when we go on trips in the morning, there's a delay in getting our act together, and we arrive just about at lunchtime. Maybe I should have pushed for an earlier departure; we left at 11 for the hour drive to Bevagna. I knew the main place of interest to them would be the Roman mosaics, which call for going to the town museum to have a guide let us in. I rushed ahead, and the lady said we'd better start now to get done before the lunch closing.

I beckoned the others to come along, then the lady said she was calling a colleague to lead us, and she wasn't getting an answer. Finally, she took us to the mosaic (needing to unlock the building and clear the alarm), and it indeed impressed everyone. We also looked in the 19th-century theater, included in the tickets.

We had brought a picnic lunch of small sandwiches with a gelatin covering, from Pasticceria Migliorati in Umbertide. Across from where we had parked, just outside the walls, there was a hill with picnic tables that worked fine, and were surprisingly deserted this Sunday.

We went back, I rested for the rest of the day, and we ate at home. As we were finishing, Moira and Mauro turned up; they took me to surprise my longtime friend, her uncle Graziano. (I was waiting to call when my phone was activated, which appears to have happened Monday morning.) Graziano showed me some local newspaper clippings about Flo.

It took the weekend for the cell phone to get activated; still, it's impressive to think of how easy it is to have a phone working in Italy, compared to when we first lived here and it took two years to get a land line activated even if the wiring was already in place, and close to forever if the wiring wasn't there.

So I should mention how much Flo is in our thoughts and influences us. We all booked this trip before Flo died, with much booking done in the first part of January. Flo hadn't been booked, but had been interested in going. Looking ahead, it was Flo who was most interested in keeping the house and potentially taking charge in the time ahead. Now there's the possibility of hiring someone to manage the house, so my mother doesn't need to handle so many difficulties, but for the long term I'm facing a decision about keeping the house or not, and it's hard to know what to do.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Rome to Umbria

I got to Rome Fiumicino airport arrivals hall at about the time the Uruguay-Ghana match was scheduled to end; I heard a radio voice talk about "if this goes to overtime"; I found my way upstairs and with construction going on, through the passageway, and down an elevator at the end, to the airport Hilton. I was checked in, on an award, to a nice room, with air conditioning after dealing with the heat in Paris.

Not sure about the Uruguay-Ghana match, I flipped through and saw it wasn't on the RAI channels, and figured I wouldn't get the satellite channel that was showing it exclusively in Italy. I saw a crawl on CNN saying it was still in overtime; I clicked past the movie channels and found a German channel carrying the match. There I saw the injustice of the flagrant hand ball, Ghana missing the penalty kicks, and losing the shootout.

I slept comfortably, getting up at 7.30 to have breakfast in the terminal rather than pay inflated Hilton prices. Back to the room to check out, and up the elevator to the start of the passageway. Now, around the airport complex, one can usually find luggage carts that can be taken for free. At the start of the passageway by the Hilton, there were carts lined up with a machine, appearing to be official, charging 1 euro for them. When I went to breakfast, there was a man standing around talking to me in English and Italian about the carts; I wasn't sure if he was offering one or asking about them, but I didn't care, since I wasn't carrying anything. Now as I was making the trip with my bags, I claimed a cart, he pulled it out and asked for a euro to him rather than into the slot. I'll take it that it was legitimate; at another point in the passageway, there were carts lined up without an attendant, and there appeared to be a release that was activated from the coin slot.

So I took the passageways to the top level of Terminal 3 (the former C side) and took the elevator down (with a mistaken stop at level 1) from level 2 to level 0, where I could cross to the intercity buses. I found the SULGA bus to Perugia at 10 minutes before its 9 a.m. departure. The bus waited until 9.15, when the driver came around and sold tickets: €21 to Perugia. The bus got to Tiburtina: I called my mother on my cell phone, with a patchy connection, to report on my progress. The bus started on its way; I noted a new lane being built on the A1 near Rome. Only one stop in Deruta, and we arrived at Piazza dei Partigiani at the scheduled 12.45 time. My parents and their friends weren't there; I gave them until 1 before making a phone call. I needed to leave a voice mail message, very patchy. Now this SIM card, which I got for emergencies before getting an Italian card, had next to no time on it, and I went through the process of calling to give credit card information to add $10 to it.

Finally my parents turned up, and got me to the pulled-over car where their friends Ken and Lesley were waiting. They'd missed a turn or two on the e-mailed directions I'd sent for the garage beneath the bus stop. They'd gone up to central Perugia, and I fear they'll incur a big ZTL fine.

From where we were, we found a way to the garage, and took the escalators up through the Rocca Paolina to central Perugia, where we had lunch at the Rosetta. Umbricelli with truffles and porcini were a nice welcoming meal. I'd been puzzled about my parents' flight, since I saw that their flight from Boston to JFK was first long delayed, then cancelled. They were rebooked on a flight to LaGuardia, had a surprise when that flight was delayed less than they were led to believe, and bused from LaGuardia to JFK.

We drove on to Umbertide without too much trouble, and settled in. I got an Italian SIM card, but so far they say they need my personal data, which I already gave, so no use from the phone during the weekend. Oh yes, Italy looks great, it's nice to settle in, and I'll have more on that in future posts.

Paris 2010 photo album

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Chartres and out of France

My hotel in Paris was the Royal Phare. Overall it was a nice value in a good area; small rooms, with an elevator where it was a challenge to fit one person with luggage. It was disappointing that wi-fi wasn't working in my room, but there was free table in the lobby to use it when I wanted to get to the Internet.

Their final help was that they were able to print my Air France boarding pass; my carry-ons weren't going to make the weight limit, so I wanted to have minimum contact with their staff.

I checked out and took the five-minute bus ride, on either line 82 or 92 from across from the hotel, to Gare Montparnasse. I succeeded in using one carnet during my stay, with one ticket having gone to waste where I could have made good use of it. At the station I took the escalator that turned out to go up two levels, when I wanted to get to the left luggage office on the level in between. There was a security check to enter the consigne, then the medium-sized lockers required €7 in coins, which fortunately I had. It was a little before 9, and the track number for my 9.33 train to Chartres wasn't showing. People stood below the big board waiting for their tracks to show; my track finally did.

I followed other people in learning the method of stamping the train ticket, and took the train, getting into the countryside, and it was a little late.

It was clear finding the way to the Cathedral. There was scaffolding in front, including the front interior, which I understand was a new state of things. It being Friday, chairs were cleared to expose the labyrinth on the floor, where many people were taking spiritual walks.

I joined the tour offered at noon by Malcolm Miller. He has written on the cathedral and conducted these tours for 53 years. It called for getting individual headsets so he could speak to the group at a normal voice. He conducts tours differently every time and is known for eccentricities; this tour covered some basics about the stained-glass windows as Bible commentary, in particular on putting the stories of Adam and Eve and the Good Samaritan together.

The tour was done at 1.15; there was a quick decision needed on whether to try to have a sit-down lunch before my train departure at 2.30. I found Tomate et Piment, a chain place I think, which looked like it could handle it. I wound up with a duck dish with teriyaki sauce, not quite the best good-bye to France, and also had time to stop for an ice cream cone.

The return train was full but I got a seat, getting some sleep too. The tickets were not checked in either direction. I picked up my bags from the locker, and found my way to the Air France bus to CDG airport, spotting it before I took the wrong impulse to cross the street. I boarded, paying the €16.50 fare, expecting it to leave on the hour but it left at 3.55. I had doubts about taking it in Friday afternoon traffic, but was told it wasn't such a big deal. Still, it took about 30 minutes to get the short distance to Denfert-Rocherau, then another stop at Gare de Lyon, and overall slow going. I was hoping I'd get to the airport in time to see the second half of the World Cup match; with a radio on my cell phone I could hear reports on it. The bus reached the first airport stop at 5.40, with some rain falling. I took a quick look at the last five minutes of the match at the bar nearest the stop, then went to the Sheraton, where I had planned to see more of it. When the postgame show ended and they hadn't taken my order, I left. If I'd taken the bus and RER, I would have gotten to the airport sooner, at a lower fare, but I could have been standing and uncomfortable, so there were benefits to taking the bus.

I went on to find the pier of Terminal 2F where my flight was departing. I try to understand that airport to be better prepared for it, but it was still chaotic. There was security (at least keeping my shoes on) and a full inspection of one bag. Then there was a crowded pier for that Friday's intra-Europe flights. I took a tall beer can from the bar, for €5.80.

The flight scheduled for 19.35 was delayed to 19.55, then 20.05. They blamed storms in the Paris area in its previous segments. Small sandwiches offered on board, arrival in Rome at 22.00, much darker there than Paris at that time. I thought "Why are we using a B gate, Air France moved to A?" then remembered what I've researched and posted about the airport; B is the concourse, and the terminal now goes by the number 1.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Paris, July 1

As I've talked about having a routine, I'm moving away from it. I'm getting into less of a penny-pinching mood, and feel that I might as well have the French breakfast at the café around the corner on rue Cler, including orange juice for a total of €6.

I'm missing some important museums, and visiting some less-known ones. I've had in mind for a long time to see the Musée Nissim de Camondo. I went there, and it's an interesting mansion set up by a man in the early 20th century with an 18th-century style, and a life marked by family tragedy.

Afterwards, after a bit of a walk around the Parc Monceau, I got to the Gare St-Lazare and took metro line 14, the newest line, for most of its length, to the Bibliothèque Mitterrand. This is in a newly developed area, with university buildings. I found a fast-food set-up place to have a meal of crepes in the main and dessert dishes. I wanted to find wi-fi in a park to get checked in for my flight 36 hours in advance, when it opened. As I understand, people who book directly on Air France (AF) generally are checked in automatically, but since I was booked through Delta (originally Northwest), I should check in early to avoid being stuck in a middle seat. On the iPod Touch, I entered the AF confirmation code that showed on the original NW booking (not on Delta), which had shown when I'd asked to see the itineraries previously, but now it wasn't working. I called AF from the cell phone I wasn't expecting to use (and used about half the SIM card value), and they got it straightened out, e-mailing me the boarding pass. In turns out that in fact they were using my Delta confirmation code.

My plan next was to visit this main national library. It consists of four buildings, perhaps representing open books, on a barren raised plaza. I only looked at a lobby area and didn't take a tour.

On this hot day, I crossed the river to the Parc de Bercy, and got to the museum of cinema. It had a regular and special exhibition with pictures, posters, and film scene screenings. I went through quickly, with thoughts of seeing an obscure old Italian film that they were showing, but it turned out to need a separate ticket. I opted not to go, and took the long ride back on metro line 6, in large part elevated. I had some café time, and got back to my room.

For dinner, I went to Le P'tit Troquet, a small place that gets many tourists, and I had a good fish meal.

For Friday, I'll be going to Chartres, then to the airport to catch my evening flight to Rome. I don't think I'll pay the high price for Internet access, so I don't know when I'll be back online. Thinking generally about Paris, it's been very nice but hot.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Paris, June 30

I slept well, and happened to turn on the TV news at 8 a.m., where they talked about fees and fares going up July 1, including for the TER train that I was planning to take to Chartres Friday. Since it's an unreserved train, I was thinking I'd buy tickets just before taking the train; now, even though the price difference would probably be small, I looked up and found an SNCF ticket office in my area, on rue St-Dominique. There was a self-service ticket machine, which I expected not to work with my credit card; otherwise it was a matter of taking a number and I had fast service, buying tickets in person with my credit card.

My first stop, by walking, was to the Musée Guimet, of Asian art. It has an impressive collection, and not much of a crowd; I think best of the Cambodian and Indian art. Back across the river, I was next going to the Musée d'Orsay. I wanted to see about the right café lunch first; I found a small cafeteria-style setup where I had a croque-monsieur with salad.

I like the Musée d'Orsay; the building drew my attention since it was an abandoned train station, and it's been impressively made as a museum of 19th-century art, including impressionists. Some areas are being restored and have been moved; one gallery has been put together about relations between Gauguin and van Gogh. Overall, it's very nice to visit, and the crowd was of a manageable size.

I hadn't made it a definite plan, but I went ahead towards the Centre Pompidou. In my Internet research before my trip, I had seen mention of a show of photographs of Les Halles, but I couldn't remember where it was. As I walked by the Palais Royal, I saw a poster: it was there, at the Louvre des Antiquaires, an upscale mall of antique dealers. I went there, and saw the photos in one room. The market of Les Halles in central Paris was there in my childhood, but I had no memory of it; as I made repeated visits in the 1970s, it was a hole in the ground, eventually to be replaced with a park and shopping mall.

At that point I was more interested in stopping at a café rather than going to the Centre Pompidou; I overindulged in a kir royal, and thought maybe the modern arts center can fit in tomorrow. To take the metro back, I took a ticket that had gotten folded; the turnstile took it with a green light, but wouldn't open; other attempts failed, and I needed to use another ticket.

For dinner I went to a fish restaurant, one of a chain, Vin et Marée. I had good crustaceans. Seated outside, they had me move so they could put other tables together, and offered me a glass of champagne for it, nice until the table tipped and most of it spilled. Anyway, a full day, feeling good.