Les Oiseaux en Juillet

J'ai trouvé plus des photos des oiseaux d'une promenade au Jardin Botanique de Metz et Canal du Juoy pendant juillet.  Pleins des mères avec leurs bébés!

I found more bird photos from a walk at the Botanical Garden of Metz and Canal du Juoy in July.  Lots of moms with their babies!

 Anser anser (embden) @ Jardin Botanique de Metz
Une oie d'Embden avec son bébé.
Embden Goose with her baby.

Anser anser @ Jardin Botanique de Metz
Une Oie Cendrée pose pour moi.
A Greylag Goose poses for me.

Ardea cinerea @ Canal du Juoy
Un Heron Cendré pêche dans le Canal.
A Grey Heron fishing in the Canal.

Fulica atra @ Canal du Juoy
Une Foulque Macroule a essayé de cacher son bébé derrière des buissons.
A Common Coot tried to hide her baby behind some bushes.

... et une de la Moselle la semaine prochaine.
... and one from the Moselle the following week

Cygnus olor
Un Cygne Tuberculé / Muet s'attend la nourriture à moi.
A Mute Swan expects food from me.


Small Kindnesses

I have been fortunate to have two kindnesses bestowed on me in a short time frame.

One day, my friend, Mickaël brought a bouquet of roses that his aunt, Zora, had picked up for me. Both Zora and Mickaël had taken time (their days are mentally and physically demanding, and often long) to pick out and bring me the flowers. It was a beautiful gift, given with no expectation other than the wish to make me happy.  It made me cry.  I decided that this bunch was special enough to try to preserve. I pressed two of the roses to make it easy to transport home to California, where they will be displayed in glass.

The rest of the flowers have been dried, and are currently in the town of Cluses in the French Alps, near Geneva, with the bestower of the second kindness. Didier is one of my oldest friends. I have not seen him in over 20 years, but he is storing four boxes totaling four square meters and 20 kg of my junk for me.

For whatever reason, my perceptions of my life experiences have made me a glass half empty sort of person, but I want to believe in happy endings.  Since these two people brought happiness to me with their kindness, I think this is a good time to close this book with a happy ending. My time in Lorraine came to an end far too soon, but I hope to return soon, and if I do, I may just reopen it! Until then, please feel free to visit me on my main blog, Mindless Meanderings of a Middle-Aged Maniac (click on the blog name to get there from here).

Pour mes amis à la Lorraine, j'espère de vous voir bientôt.  Ma porte est ouverte à vous, où que ça soit!

Below, one of my final views of Paris on this trip, from Gare de l'Est.  Across the street at l'Ecu (on the right), my new favorite Parisian waiter, Chris, works breakfast.  Okay, technically, he isn't Parisian, he's English!  If Chris worked at l'Insulaire, my favorite restaruant (thanks to my sister for bringing me there), that would be the perfect combination for me.


Temple Evangélique de la Garnison

Built at the beginning of the German annexation from 1875 to 1881, the construction of this church was overseen by soldiers (primarily Protestant) stationed in Metz.  Positioned across the Moselle from Cathédrale St Étienne, its 97m high façade, 1m higher than the Cathédrale's tour de Mutte, was a symbol of the Prussian presence that was visible everywhere.

For a region that has been German a few times, most recently less than a century ago, I met very few Metz natives who actually spoke German.  One worked in sales at the train station.  The other spoke German at his place of work in Geneva.

Damaged during World War II, then ravaged by fire in 1946, the three naves of this church were destroyed.  Only the tower of this neo-gothic building was preserved.

I was not a fan of gothic architecture, but now that I have seen examples of it in person, executed by craftsmen, I have developed an appreciation for it.  The temple was constructed of the local pierre de Jaumont stone.  The photo below is a daylight example of bare pierre de Jaumont on a more modern building, I think it was a house.  Its small, irregular stones had been plastered over at some point, as opposed to the custom cut slabs which were left bare on the church.


Getting Around

I am a walker.  If I can accomplish something within walking distance of home, I'll hoof it, rather than pull out my beloved midlife crisis convertible.  But if I actually have to leave town, I admit I drive rather than take the train, mainly because the commuter train near my house (Caltrain) comes only once every one to two hours during non-commute times (and they are cutting back service and raising fees at the end of this month), so every outing must be planned carefully.  It almost seems as though Caltrain does everything it can to discourage ridership.

I had no car in Metz, but on the days I left town for a day or two, I rode the train, rather than hire a car, for many reasons.  First and foremost, Europeans drive fast!  But also ... local trains (called the MetroLor in Lorraine) come more frequently, even during non-commute hours, the discount systems are better than those of any of the Bay Area's commuter rail systems, all their announcements are in multiple languages, and their speakers work, so you can hear the announcements.  Plus, I actually prefer to ride, rather than drive, because I can catch up on my reading.

Yep, I will miss the MetroLor.  A lot.


Open Sundays

I come from a land where retailers do their biggest business when others are not working, and food can be purchased 24 hours a day, every day.  So, one of the biggest culture shocks for me was discovering that French retailers are closed during lunch, on Sundays and all holidays.  Luckily, there were two markets within a five minute walk from my apartment which were open on Sundays, including Marché Plus, pictured (my scribbled additions in purple, lower right).

With my current "job" (in quotes because the company is unfunded and I work from home without pay in hopes it will be funded) the largest problem with the store hours issue was remembering the day of the week and holidays.  Thus, when I complained to my significant other, he granted nothing resembling sympathy!  Yes, he was right, I just needed to adjust to the system.

But I can also see how the system was built for those who have someone to call on, for partnerships where one partner manages the domestic realm while the other is out earning a living.  It was not built for those like me.  When I need something, the only one I have to call for help is myself, and handling little issues that can pop up unexpectedly would have been difficult if I had a standard office job.

I appreciate the mobility the path I have chosen has afforded me and am grateful for having met wonderful people.  But I also envy those who have a partner to come home to, someone with whom not only duties can be shared, but also little things that create happy memories -- walks, talks, dorky games, or just quietly enjoying each-others' company.  Sometimes I wonder if the system is right and I have chosen the wrong path, but even if that were true, I have depended solely on myself my entire adult life.  It would be very difficult to switch, now.


Walking along the Moselle

One of my favorite places to walk in Metz is along the Moselle. There is something soothing about being near the water for me. Where the river hits centre ville, the walkway along the banks turns into a wooden promenade, with a cement wall leading up to the streets above.

As I walked along the promenade one day, I noticed iron rings attached to the wall at different heights (photo). It took a few minutes for me to figure out the promenade is over the water and that the rings are old mooring rings. I do not know how long the promenade has existed or how long it has been since a boat tied up to one of these rings ... a few years? A few decades?


Life is for the living

I am hopelessly attracted to plants growing where they "shouldn't" be. There is something about the tenacity of a seed that manages to wedge itself into a crack in stone or cement, germinates, collects what nourishment it can in what seems a barren environment, and clings to life so beautifully. So when I happened upon this snapdragon growing out of the sidewalk near Place Saint Louis during one of my walks, I had to capture its image. On those occasions when life feels just a bit too overwhelming, images such as this remind me that improbable does not mean impossible.


Centre Pompidou - Metz

Named after former President Georges Pompidou, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, with its libraries, music institute, educational centers, and of course, its huge collection of modern art, is one of the most important centers for contemporary art in the world. Next year, the Centre is expanding its reach by opening a satellite campus in Metz. Like Parc de la Seille in my entry last week, the Centre is in the new Amphitheatre District of Metz, just opposite the train station, and about a 15 minute walk to the city center.

A project goal is to open the Centre's extensive collection to a wider audience. It will be interesting to see what effects traffic to the Centre has on the local economy, as well.

I walked by the construction site on my walk to Fort de Queuleu in May. It was still just a frame at that point. You can see its current state at the Centre Pompidou - Metz website, and the Centre Pompidou Information Page.


The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker

Food and drink prices in Metz seem to be slightly lower than prices in the Bay Area. Okay, maybe that is an unfair comparison, but one thing that France offers in spades is an abundance of bakeries with offerings varying from satisfyingly crunchy baguettes, hearty multi-grain breads, flaky croissants, rich beignets, and decadent tartlets. Alas, the day of the small specialty bakery is pretty much dead in the U.S. They have been replaced by the bakery sections of the chain supermarkets.

I can think of four bakeries offhand within a three minute walk of my apartment. But the one I frequented most was José (and Eugénie) Soto around the corner, a small, family-run business (as most are). That's José smiling in the photo -- you can see him better if you click on the photo to enlarge it. I have mentioned before that the people are what make any place and any business special, and this is no exception. I was always greeted with a hello and a warm smile, and sent away with a thank you and have a nice day. I am a big fan of their baguettes.

José Soto Boulanger Patissier
31 rue Pasteur
57000 Metz
06 87 66 67 38


Parc de la Seille

Developed between 2000 and 2002, Parc de la Seille, on avenue de l'Amphithéâtre, was one of the first projects built in Metz's new Amphitheatre district, just south of the train station and the new Centre Pompidou. The paths meandering through the park pass along the Seille, through flower beds, and by the athletics facilities, where I shot baskets at the end of May with an after-school director and a local teen. This gold-toned giant needle is at the top of a hill in the Park. I took a bunch of photos, then walked all around it, looking for some kind of information on it, but got nothin' ... and I was starting to creep the sunbathers and couples out with my camera ... so, I can't tell you anything about it!

Parc de la Seille was developed not only as a pleasant spot for people to enjoy, but also as a preserve, and on the walks I have taken there, I have seen several species of birds flitting about ... alas, I know nothing about birds, so I can only say with a relative amount of certainty that I have seen crows (or is it ravens?) hopping about and a group of ducks making their way along the Seille. No photos of them, though. They moved too quickly!

The park has both raised beds with each species of flower in its own section, as well as wetlands bordering the river. This little blue flower at left was in the latter, and is about 2 cm (1 inch) in diameter, if that. In my Lorraine Flora album, there is also a vibrant orange flower of about the same size.

From the websites where I learned about its background, the Park has lighting, enabling night-time visits. Unfortunately, I never took the opportunity to do that, although I think I would have liked it. Learn more about Parc de la Seille...

- Mairi-Metz
- Tout-Metz
- Loisirs et Sorties


Living to Tell About It

A cycad, blue sky, fluffy white cloud, bright sun, must be a tropical island! But no, it is Northern France, and as I take this photo, I am lying on the steps in front of Metz Gare, enjoying the warmth and the light.

In front of me, the summer plant display is a mix of ornamentals and edibles: echinacea; dahlias; salvias; rosemarinus; basilicum; tomatoes; squash; and legumes. The city gardeners are tending the display, fixing planter boxes, deadheading, pruning. I like the rotating plant displays. In California, public spaces tend to have permanent, low-maintenance plantings, which can be boring after awhile. Granted, taxes are higher in France, but...

Last night, I headed out in search of a klezmer concert. I must have misread the flyer, or missed it (as usual, I was late). Probably a good thing, as I am not a huge klezmer fan, I just wanted something to do! But I made it to a hill I discovered early on (I photographed it, but the light settings on my camera were wrong that day). There is a terraced garden there, the Jardin des Tanneurs, and that area was occupied by tanners until the Middle Ages (a branch of the Seille used to meander through). I hoped to re-photograph it, but a man lurking on a set of stairs started to walk in pace with me, staring. I think he was looking for drugs. I stared back. Hard. And he left. I did manage a few shots of the Quartier des Allemands from one of the terraces, though. It is an interesting mix of buildings.

I walked towards home, and a block from Metz Gare, a car slowed down. A man asked directions to some square I'd never heard of. Since it is a red light area, I assumed he was looking for something I wasn't about to give him, so I said, "desolée, je ne la connais pas, je suis americaine, je ne suis pas de Metz! (sorry, not familiar with it, I'm American & not from Metz," and continued on my way.

Several blocks later, a car slowed down. I was getting annoyed. It was the same guy! He asked if I would have a drink with him. "I'm sorry, I have a boyfriend." He was undeterred. So ... we had drinks and pizza, and when I told him I'm in finance/accounting, he looked sufficiently scared of me that I was pretty sure he wouldn't attack me (I'm paranoid that way). His name is Eric, he's in wholesale meats and lives in Switzerland. I think he just wanted learn a little English -- he spoke a combination of French and German to me, and would ask what different words were in English. 90 minutes later, Eric dropped me off in front of my apartment, shook my hand and drove off. And my faith in humanity makes a bit of headway....



From gang symbols and rebellious teenage statements, to doodles and elaborate artwork, graffiti is everywhere. Just as varied as the content, are the reactions to it ... blight on humanity, sign of declining neighborhoods, defacement of property, art, political statement, any combination of those. And yes, it exists in Lorraine, too.

At left, Police Everywhere Justice Nowhere, is in a tunnel by Fort de Bellecroix. I thought it a fitting description of our post-9/11 world. Governments have taken our freedoms and privacy under the guise of security. But we are no safer than before, although considerably more impinged upon, inconveniences paid for by our taxes. You can see more angst-filled statements from this tunnel in my Street Expressions Album.

The green guy at right is more innocuous in appearance, and one of a series painted on the flower boxes on a bridge over the Digue de la Pucelle here in Metz. They seem to be sanctioned by the city, since all the boxes seem to have been painted by the same person. There are also more of this series in my Street Expressions Album.

Okay, so this isn't graffiti. But the title of the album is Street Expressions, and well, I saw this display in someone's yard as I was walking down the street. I find this still life of children's toys and garden gnomes odd, creepy and fascinating. Did an adult set these up, or did a child create his or her own little world?

I often wonder how others feel about expressions, sanctioned or taboo. In a recent blog entry, Zaz discusses her dilemma with Freedom of Expression. As a writer, self expression is important for her, but as a mother, she found it impossible to defend a rapper who had been banned from a music festival for lyrics that were racist, misogynistic, and violent.

On the other hand, another friend of mine, who is a father, told me he is against censure because it gives more power to the target group. To wit, I believe that the rapper in question has had a surge in downloads of his work since that date.

I am not a parent. Nor does my livelihood depend on artistic expression. But I am a member of an ethnic group that has faced socio-political discrimination. I am inclined to agree that censure tends to grant power to the target, and often forces the movement underground, where it is more difficult to track. In this respect, I would much rather have someone's feelings out in the open.

I once had a student who felt a strong revulsion to Asians. Her sole experience with Asians had been a family who lived across from her, and they happened to be slobs. She was from a small town, where the "wrong" influences were strong, and ended up in prison, where racist tendencies were reinforced due to the way inmates tend to group themselves. After her release, she forced herself to deal with her issues, and did that very much out in the open, and this Asian spent many evenings after class discussing her progress with her. I appreciated her candor and efforts to overcome her issues. It was important that she express how she felt and why she felt that way, no matter how ugly those feelings were, in order to work through them. Interestingly, I was disappointed by other peoples' reactions when I described her and her efforts. People I had thought were open-minded were quick to condemn her, completely overlooking her background and the fact that she was working hard to evolve her way of thinking. I did not see the same efforts from them.

I would love to hear how others feel about the freedom of expression, artistic, social, political or otherwise. My door is always open.

In this, my final weekend in Metz for quite possibly a long time, I am a bit sad. There are so many things I still want to see and experience here, but I am out of time on this run. And as luck would have it, I'm fighting off a cold and feeling a little run-down, so I stayed relatively close to the apartment and packed a few items this weekend, rather than go anywhere interesting.


Fête Nationale

I have learned that what we call Bastille Day in America, is actually called Fête Nationale (National Holiday) or quatorze juillet (14th of July) in France. I guess we gave it a distinctive moniker to distinguish it from other countries' national holidays. France's holiday is a commemoration of the fête de la Fédération of 14 July 1790, the first anniversary of the taking of the Bastille, and the establishment of a Constitutional Monarchy in France. The interesting fact about this holiday, at least for me, is that it celebrates the first anniversary festivities, because the actual taking of the Bastille was considered too bloody to commemorate!

Anne-Lise and Arnaud told me that every year, there are balls and fireworks associated with the holiday, and then warned me that every year, it rains on the 14th. It had rained every day since I had returned to Metz, so I was prepared, with rain jacket in hand, as I stepped out my door to join the line of people walking toward the Moselle, and Plan d'Eau, an islet on (in?) the Moselle. As luck would have it, the night was clear and warm, and actually marked the beginning of warmer, sunnier days for me (at least for the last two days).

The fireworks had already started, the air was filled with smoke and flashes of light, and people were everywhere. I commandeered one of those police barricades so I could lean on it for stability while I snapped photos. I need a tripod if I am going to continue to take photos at night. That said, I would probably never remember to bring it with me, and I would be stuck doing the same search for stable objects to lean on, anyway.

After the fireworks, people were still lined up at the food vendors and children were still on the carnival rides, as I strolled by on my way North up to Centre Ville, to see what else was going on in town. As I walked up the promenade of the Moselle, I heard the standard 12-bar blues rhythm coming from one of the tunnels. I followed the sound, and saw a bar with a small outdoor seating area, a few people dancing in the street next to it, and one woman dancing up near the band. You can see her, the lead singer, and more fête photos in my Metz Events Album on Picasa.

I wandered a bit more before heading back to the apartment to send some documents to my boss, who seems to know when I do not want to be bothered, because he called several times that evening after I had not heard from him in weeks. I got a few half-decent shots of Temple Neuf, of which this funky long exposure is one of my favorites (I tried to hold the camera steady by myself ... no luck). I also got some shots of the L'Opéra-Théatre at Place de la Comédie, and the Temple Evangélique de la Garnison, both of which you can see in my Lorraine Structures album on Picasaweb. I had nothing to support the camera with other than myself on the last temple, but luckily, it was well-lit.

I have two weeks before I need to be out of this apartment. At the risk of sounding high maintenance, it would not be my first choice should I return here, because it has no oven and it is a bit of a walk to do laundry. But I will miss it in my own way. In the meantime, my main concern is what to do with all my junk! I may just give away the housewares and mail my clothes home, as I think it is probable it will cost more to ship my things home than it would cost me to replace them the next time I move.


Happy Bastille Day!

Although here I think people just call it the National Holiday. There are dances, music, fireworks, and other activities planned around the holiday, and I will hopefully be out there tonight. Hopefully, because last night I also meant to head out to see what was going on and I accidentally fell asleep.

How could I fall asleep?!? I went out early in the evening for drinks with Anne-Lise and Arnaud (no cooking lesson this time), who are off to Iran on vacation today. We went to a bar in the city centre, of which I cannot remember the name, but liked enough to track down again before I go. I had a raspberry beer. It has about half the alcohol of regular beer, sweet, fruity flavor, and beer undertones.

For those who know me well, I actually drank the whole beer! And then had hot chocolate while Anne-Lise and Arnaud had a second drink. I was feeling a little drowsy when I got back to the apartment, so I picked up my laptop and brought it over to the sofa, so I could sit comfortably while I perused local activities to see. The next thing I knew, it was three hours later, and after midnight. At that point, I was too lazy to even pull the sofa out into its bed form, so I drew the blanket up and passed out for the rest of the night.

So ... I have been awake since somewhere around 6 this morning. I am starting to feel a little drowsy again, but am afraid to take a nap!


My Backup Drive is Like an Egg...

... Fried!

The night before I returned to France, I copied all my personal files and work backups to my backup drive. As I shut down the computer, I unplugged the drive, which made a wheezing sound. Well, that's never happened before! I turned the computer back on and plugged in the drive. Nothing. I hooked the drive up to my other computer. Nada.

I spent the rest of the night trying to fix the drive, when I probably should have been transferring my personal files to my work computer, which is here with me in France, because here I am with a bunch of photos I wanted to upload to my photo albums ... all on a useless drive! I guess they will have to wait until I get home. In the meantime, I hope to take more in the next few weeks while I am moving out of my apartment.

I had my first negative experience in a Metz place of business! At Namur, a tea house in centre ville, it took forever for a server to come by, and when she finally did, she acted as though taking an order was far too difficult a chore for her. Since it was late afternoon, the selections were a bit limited. She waved toward the display counter, said what was there was what was left to eat, and then took off, passing by several times, ignoring us ... we left. It's a pastry shop, and Metz suffers no dearth of pastry shops with quality fare. The staff at every other one I've been to here has been at the very least cordial, and more likely than not, warm and welcoming. Ah well, can't win 'em all!



My first day in my little Metz studio, I grasped the plastic handle on my kitchen sink cabinet ... and it came off in two pieces! Arrgh! I was still unpacking, so I set the pieces on the sink, picked up my shoes, turned to the small wardrobe, and placed my shoes on the shelf ... which promptly tilted downward, due to a missing support peg. I couldn't believe it, my first day, and already two problems, albeit small, with the apartment! This was not a good sign.

I wasn't about to call the landlord for such minor problems (I am a landlord's dream when it comes to small maintenance issues -- I typically leave places I rent in better condition than when I move in), so I left in search of a hardware store for new pulls and pegs. I asked people on the street for suggestions, and they sent me toward the Porte des Allemands. As I got closer, the people in that area pointed me to a narrow street at the end of a small square.

Across the street from the square, in a corner space about two or three times the size of my studio, I saw cookware crowded into a tiny window, and QUINCAILLERIE INTER MENAGER in large red letters above. I walked through the door, and was hit with aisles of merchandise overflowing the shelves, more merchandise propped up on the floors and hanging from the ceiling. The proprietress was with another customer, so I wandered up and and down the three aisles, each of which had maybe two feet of walking space down the middle (okay, maybe one foot in places).

I was amazed at how much she had packed into such a small space! She had, literally, everything you could want in a hardware store -- electrical and plumbing supplies, tools, hardware, housewares. Some of it was a little complicated to reach, but it was all there, including my handles and and pegs.

I love small proprietorships, and I try to patronize them when I can. I grew up in my parents' little corner pharmacy. It is where I learned to count change, budget time and money, and most importantly, interact with people. I truly believe that small businesses provide real human contact that is just not possible in an online, or even at a brick and mortar chain store. The owner thought I was crazy when I wanted to take photos of her shop, but she let me do it. In case you are in town:

Quincaillerie Inter-Ménagere
54 rue Mazelle
57000 Metz, France
+33 3 87 74 38 17


Jardin Botanique de Metz

I ventured out in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week for my walk to take advantage of the relative warmth of a sunny May day. The sun was high, and I headed south, in search of an arboretum I had seen a few days earlier on my way back from a walk along the Moselle. I wasn't exactly sure where it was, so as I walked along, I asked various people where the Jardin Botanique was, and managed to walk right past it twice, before I saw the entrance!

Passing through the gate, I was greeted by a statue on a lawn area that looked like two vultures attacking a lamb, which you can see in my Lorraine Flora album. The Jardin Botanique de Metz is actually in Montigny-lès-Metz, but I believe owned by Metz, and I am not exactly sure whether Montigny-lès-Metz is a completely separate town, or a neighborhood within the city of Metz. It is adjacent to the Chateau de Courcelles, an early 18th century mansion, of which I know little about other than it has recently undergone major restoration. Today, its rooms can be rented out for meetings and conferences.

I headed into the arboretum first, where I found the little green beetle in the photo, above right. I am still learning how to use my camera, so I had to keep futzing with it to get the exposure and focus. Luckily, the little bug barely moved the whole time. But he wasn't the only specimen of the animal kingdom in the structure. As you walk in, there is a fountain with turtles, and in another room there are several birds. You can see them in my Lorraine Fauna album. They have several palm, orchid and citrus specimens in the arboretum, and the fruit looked really good ... maybe because they had signs on them that said hands off!

Back outside on the footpaths, I walked under an arbor with what looked to be yellow wisteria (left). I love wisteria! I have a 50 year old wisteria in my backyard in California that my grandfather planted. Wisteria, a vining plant related to peas with clustered violet flowers , are significant in Japanese (and Buddhist) culture, because although beautiful, they are considered humble, because they face downward. I have since found out these flowers are Laburnums, which are actually trees.

Planted under the Laburnum were several iris varieties, which reminded me of the iris my mom had all around her garden. She started with just a few, through the years divided the rhizomes, and eventually had a riot of violet blooms popping up all over every spring.

Outside the shelter of arboretum and arbor, the paths connect several gardens within the grounds, including a fragrance garden with herbs and scented flowers, an array of different colored azaleas (in the Flora album), three ponds (one is in the Flora album), a rose collection, grasses, flower beds, and several spots to sit and contemplate the world. I walked along a path of square pavers leading to a stone slab (right), which is where I chose to stop for a few minutes and just enjoy the sunshine.


Restaurant Atelier Cuisine

I was leaving town for a month on the 9th, so by the evening of the 8th, I had already eaten or given away all of my perishables (I hope), and didn't have the ingredients or desire to cook. I headed out the door into the chill, damp night in search of dinner.

Down rue Pasteur, a few short blocks from the apartment, a lone restaurant in the middle of the block was open, Atelier Cuisine. The menu looked promising, it seemed pleasant, and I was cold and starting to get a little wet from the rain. But I didn't want to give up so soon, just because it was the first place I saw. I continued down the street, passing fast food, Moroccan, Chat Noir (closed Mondays). Around the corner, heading back up rue Lafayette past a few bars, a couple of chain/franchise places, a few brasseries, Mexican, hotel restaurants.

Nothing else really caught my eye, and the walk wasn't warming me up as I had expected, so rather than head up toward centre ville, headed back to Atelier Cuisine. I pondered the menu, thinking the terrine de lapin en croûte de lard et buisson de salade (terrine of rabbit with bacon crust and salad) sounded good. But I ordered the magret de canard sauce acidulée aux mûres sauvages (duck breast with a sour dewberry sauce), because bacon can be a bit too rich for me, the berry sauce sounded interesting, and I really love duck when it is cooked correctly... and it was cooked perfectly! Presented on a bed of mirepoix, it was juicy, flavorful, and the tart sauce complemented it nicely.

I was stuffed by the time I finished, but the dessert menu was placed in front of me, and well, I have a raging sweet tooth. Everything sounded delicious, but the riz au lait sur lit de caramel à la fleur de sel (rice pudding on a bed of salted caramel) intrigued me. I have often been pleasantly surprised by sweet/savory combinations, and this was no exception. Even though I was already uncomfortably full, I ate every last bit.

Heading out of the restaurant, I walked around the neighborhood a bit before heading back to the apartment to ease some of the discomfort of having eaten too much. I will definitely return to Atelier Cuisine if I have the chance.

Restaurant Atelier Cuisine
26 rue Pasteur
57000 Metz
+33 3 87 16 35 10



Tuesday morning, I woke up early to run to the bank to withdraw money from my US account and deposit it into my French account before heading home. Unfortunately, the atm at Crédit Agricole told me my bank had refused my request, gave me my card back, no cash ... and a receipt that said it had issued €450 to me! I ran to my apartment to check my account, and Citibank already showed a $640 withdrawal. I ran back to Crédit Agricole, explained what had happened, and the woman behind me said the same thing had happened to her! Alexandre, the branch manager, called whoever it is he calls when this happens, shut down the machine, and told me the transaction would be reversed. To emphasize his point, he crossed out the 450 on my atm receipt. I am sure Citibank will not accept that as evidence. 4 days and several messages later, Citibank still has not reversed the transaction. Grrr...

The fiasco at the bank ran until 15 minutes before my train to Paris was to depart. I ran back to the apartment for my things, and headed out the door to the train station with two heavy bags, one of which was awkward to carry. I ran to the station, saw my train was running 10 minutes late, grabbed coffee and a roll and headed to the track. When the train rolled in, I queued up to enter. Just as I got to the door, it shut on me, and wouldn't open again! The station agents made me go halfway back down the tracks to enter through another door, then I had to walk all the way back up the interior of the train to reach my seat. The bags were bruising my legs, I was sweating, my shoulders were complaining, and my hands were cramping. I was not pretty.

The rest of the day went more smoothly. I spent the day with my sister, had dinner with her and a couple of her crewmates, Marco and Gus. Gus is from Colorado and is a bow hunter. Marco is from Cuba, and at dinner he told us how he had been branded a potential "problem" by government officials, because he had been "poisoned" by the influence of his college classmates from other countries, and they gave him detailed instructions on how to find someone to take him out of the country! I met two more of my sister's crewmates on the way back to the hotel. Hervé is from Congo, has two wives and likes to flirt. Franz is from France, is unmarried and likes to flirt.

I flew with my sister and her crewmates from Paris to Miami Wednesday morning, then continued to San Francisco, arriving home in the evening. It was a long day, and I am still a little jet lagged. My body doesn't handle travel as well as it used to. I don't know why. I am home for a month, then go back to France for a month. If I am still not earning a regular salary at that point, I will be packing up my things to move back home. If I do have a salary, I'll apply for a long-stay visa and hunt for a new apartment, preferably one with laundry facilities in the building and an oven.

I still have photos from Jardin Botanique de Courcelles to upload, and some of what I think are interesting architechtural elements, so I will put up at least one post while I'm home. I have received a few messages since arriving home, and have not answered yet, but I will get around to that as soon as I catch up on house, bank and a few other issues that have popped up.



I can't think of a more pleasant way to get to know new people than over food and drink. I invited myself to Arnaud's again, this time for ratatouille, and this time, his girlfriend, Anne-Lise, was in charge.

Ratatouille is a relatively free-form dish, so ingredient proportions are adjustable. Ingredients: sliced onion, minced garlic (germ removed), aubergine/eggplant, bell peppers, tomatoes and zucchini/courgette cut into ~1 inch cubes, bay, thyme, rosemary, and a good virgin olive oil.

Anne-Lise sautéd the onions in enough oil to coat the pan (she mentioned that traditionally, they use a lot of oil), and added the garlic just as they were caramelizing, while the eggplant and peppers were prepped, then added to the pot. The tomatoes went in next, and the zucchini saved for last, added as the other vegetables softened. Anne-Lise added a little water, three bay leaves, and the leaves from a sprig of thyme and a sprig of basil to the pot, and the concoction was left to cook, with an occasional stir.

She and Arnaud took some potatoes they had boiling and riced them into a large bowl, adding crème, salt, pepper and nutmeg -- Anne-Lise is grating the nutmeg into the potatoes while Arnaud stirs in the photo. I have never had mashed potatoes with nutmeg ... they are delicious that way!

Finally, fresh seabass was cooked on a hot frying pan, browned to perfection. I went to the market earlier in the day with Arnaud and Anne-Lise, and watched the man at the fish stand filet them. It took him all of 15 seconds at most to do each one. The last time I attempted to filet a fish, it took me about 5 minutes, and I mangled it.

Boissons... Before the meal, I had a glass of pastís, an anise liquor. It pours clear, and turns cloudy when exposed to water. According to Arnaud, pastis is very strong, and a favorite among alcoholics, but it is also a typical French drink. We had a good Bordeaux with dinner, and a wonderfully fragrant Earl Grey tea with a mirabelle pie Anne-Lise made from scratch.

The pie was to die for! Mirabelles are a small plum grown in Lorraine. For the pâte brisée, Anne-Lise recommends cutting 50 - 100g butter into 150g flour (she did not use sugar for this pie, although she says a little sugar can be added), then sprinkling on just enough water to make everything hold together in a ball (and not futzing with the dough too much once the water is added). She baked the pie with very little added sugar -- mirabelles are sweet, with just a hint of acid, from what I have tried.

We will attempt one more cooking session when I return in July, and then Anne-Lise and Arnaud are off to vacation in Iran! I have never been to the Middle East. I would love to trek the Karakoram range, but Americans aren't very popular in Pakistan right now.

I am off to Paris in the morning, possibly the Louvre in the afternoon, and will spend the night bumming off my sister's room at the Marriott before the flight Wednesday morning.

See more photos of dinner in my food & drink album:
Food and Drink


Summer Reading

It is raining, the first in over a week, but unlike the past month, today's rain was an all-day affair and cold! It has been cold enough the last couple of days that I do not venture out without donning at least a sweater, usually two, plus a jacket. As I march down the street at a brisk pace, hoping to warm up, I notice the people around me in spring-like skirts, t-shirts, and light jackets, and wonder if I am coming down with something. I have spent sub-freezing evenings in Truckee (California, by Lake Tahoe) shoveling snow from the driveway dressed in my long underwear, proof that I am not rendered entirely useless in the cold, but the mountains are a bit more arid. The cold here is similar to the Bay Area in that it tends to be humid as well, and the moisture seems to conduct the cold deeper into my body.

This weekend celebrates the L'été du Livre (summer of the book) in Metz, and there is a huge tent filled with books, their authors at the ready to speak with attendees and sign copies of their work. I have been trying, unsuccessfully, I might add, to read Le Parfum (the French translation of Das Parfum by Patrick Süskind). The vocabulary is more than a bit beyond me to try to parse out meaning as I go. So I headed up to the book sale to see if I could find an English translation so I could read them side-by-side, or another book in French that would be easier for me to get through. I wandered through the whole tent once, scanning covers only, to get an idea of what was there. I love history and socio-political commentary, and a few titles caught my eye, but I didn't want to bog myself down in those yet.

She is in my Metz Events album.

On my second pass, I stopped at the table of Zaz, whose books are produced by a small printer in the little town of Sarreguemines (I stayed there last November at Auberge St Walfrid, beautiful rooms, excellent food, highly recommend it). She had a book, Mémoires d'un Labrador, with a photo of a black lab leaning on a bed, paw held up as if wanting to shake hands. All of my dogs growing up, with the exception of one sheltie, were black labs. Of course I bought a copy! I skimmed through the first two chapters, and it looks to be an amusing read.

Zaz's links:

Mabrouck Rachedi
Also in the Metz Events album
I continued through the tent, and a man began speaking to me in what seemed to me to be rapid-fire French! I panicked and my brain froze. I picked up one word ... three. It is probably good that someone who works with numbers for a living can recognize them in more than one language. But in this case, it didn't help at all. I asked in my broken French to repeat what he said more slowly, and he said in English:

This is the third time you have passed by, which means that you must really want to read my book!

I was pretty sure I had only been through the tent twice, but I guess it was possible I had ventured down that particular aisle three times. I told him I needed a relatively easy read, because my French vocabulary is limited. His name is Mabrouck Rachedi -- Click here for his Myspace page -- and he assured me that his book, Le petit Malik, would be a perfect read for someone just learning French. If someone makes the effort to speak with me out of the blue, and yes, use one of the oldest sales tactics on earth in making what he has seem to fill my needs, I am more open to what he has to say. Of course I bought a copy of his book! I skimmed through the first chapter at lunch, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I did not need my dictionary to get the gist and was able to figure out most of the new words based on context. So far, it seems a bittersweet tale, although I have only been introduced to one of three main characters.

By the way, Mabrouck has been invited to attend what I think is a writer's workshop at the University of Iowa. Iowa is not exactly one of the more exciting places to visit in the world, but I hope he is able to go, as it seems he will have the opportunity to network with other writers from around the world.
Another man offered to make a little watercolor painting on a card for me as I passed by. His name is Eban, and his books are collections of his paintings and poems. He is from Vietnam, lives in France and has family in the US and Switzerland. I am ashamed to say I did not buy one of his books, although I like his work. I was on a mission to find books that would help improve my fluency in French, and when I am on a mission, I can be pretty focused. If you are of Japanese heritage, his books make nice omiage (hostess gifts, I think is the best English translation) when visiting someone's home.
I saw Veronique, the docent from the museum (she actually works at the library, I found out), who led me through one of the exhibits so she could translate for me today, as well. This time I remembered to give her the URL to my blog.
Learning to make ratatouille tonight... will report back!


Economies and People

Need a container? The man at left (whose name I did not catch) has one for everything. The market was packed this weekend, although from what I heard, it was mostly lookers. Not so many buyers at the end of the month! And, I suspect, not so many this year.

I sit in my apartment, tapping at my laptop, clenching my jaw at the bleak outlook of my future. No responses to job applications other than the automatically generated "thanks for applying" responses. The governor slashed the community college budget back home. Physical Education in particular has been dealt a severe blow, so my backup plan may no longer be available to me come August. And though there is demand for the product my company sells, the companies who want them are not willing to extend loans to have them made. For the first time in my life, I am tasting defeat, and I am not so sure how to handle it. I know that things are tough all around, and that work is scarce for everyone, but if you are someone who has always landed on your feet, it is a lot more painful when you finally don't. The golden child has tarnished.

On a brighter note, I had my Quiche Lorraine lesson with Arnaud. The man eyeballs everything! Luckily, he emailed the recipe with approximate amounts:

Ingredients: pâte brisée (shortcrust pastry -- savory, not sweet); 3 eggs; 100g smoked bacon, 50g enmental cheese (optional, and not traditional), 15cl cream (Arnaud used crème fraîche, but I think heavy cream and whipping cream will work, too -- he also added a little milk); salt & pepper.

Lay pastry in a shallow baking dish with straight sides. Cut bacon into small pieces, and place into bottom of pie pan -- it should be evenly distributed, but not not too dense. Beat the eggs until they turn light yellow. Add cream and milk, and continue beating until the mixture becomes frothy. According to Arnaud, the cream/milk proportion controls the pouffiness of the quiche. More cream = more pouff. Pour over bacon. Shred the cheese and distribute evenly across pan. You can also add onion, which makes it a quiche Alsacienne. Put in a 200c / 390f oven until lightly browned and cooked through.

Between the cream and bacon, it is a very rich dish, and is therefore traditionally served with a salad. Arnaud sliced tomatoes and basil for his salad. Alas, I forgot to bring my camera that day! I assure you, everything was delicious.

According to Food Reference, quiche Lorraine "originated in Germany, in the medieval kingdom of Lothringen, under German rule, and which the French later renamed Lorraine," and the word quiche is from the German Kuchen, for cake. Let's just say it's a dish from a region that has experienced several changes in administrative authority, and leave it at that.


Miscellaneous Thoughts

At left is a doggie crypt, which resides in the Musée Lorraine in Nancy. The crypt is for Ninette, a young dog of financier Jacques-Onésyme Bergeret de Grancourt in the 18th Century. I thought it touching he would have such an elaborate mausoleum made for his dog. It made me think of my family's first two labs (Happy and Happy Too) and the Bubbling Well Pet Cemetery in Napa, where my parents have them interred.

Nancy, like Metz, is in the Lorraine region, however, unlike Metz, it is in the Meurthe-et-Moselle department. Like the Musées de la Cour D'or in Metz, the Lorraine Museum has artifacts and descriptions of the ancient history of the region. In my Nancy Photo album, you will see a big golden porte, which is one of the entries to la Place Stanislas. Stanislas Leszczynski was an exiled Polish king who was given the Duchy of Lorraine as compensation when he abdicated.

Macarons, specifically, the macarons of Maison des Soeurs, a confection of egg white, almonds and sugar, are a culinary specialty of Nancy. These are nothing like the macaroons we think of in the US. They are more akin to a soft meringue in density and texture, and not as cloyingly sweet. The recipe for these macarons was developed by two sisters of the convent of Dames du Saint Sacrament, who sold them to earn a living when they took refuge with a local doctor after religious congregations were dissolved during the French revolution. The recipe has been passed on to the successors to their shop, outside of which I lined up with a horde of other tourists so I could send some to my father, sister and niece and bring some home with me, as well.

Information on Nancy...

Wikipedia has an English entry on Nancy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy.

The Nancy tourist board: http://www.ot-nancy.fr/uk/centre_historique/index.php.

I jogged to Parc de la Seille today, and saw two men on the basketball court, so I asked if I could shoot with them for a bit. I have not played basketball in 20 years (and it showed), and am not really a basketball person, but it felt so good to do something athletic again. It is difficult to explain, but there is something more satisfying about moving around on the sports field for me than being stuffed in a fitness center.

The two people turned out to be a director for an after school program for troubled teens, and one of his charges. The kid seemed to like the idea of playing basketball, but like most teens, not really keen on listening to what the instructor was saying, so he was doing layups off the wrong foot. The instructor would explain and demonstrate, and the kid would stand there looking like he was paying attention, and then just do whatever he wanted. Oddly enough, watching them made me miss coaching, and working with that age group (yes, I have worked with athletes younger than college age, I coached a team for underprivileged youth back in the day ... way back). It is not an easy age group to work with, but when you make a breakthrough with them, the rewards are much greater. A few of my friends know these kinds of programs are near and dear to my heart. I am contemplating going back and asking if they need a short-term volunteer. Maybe their bookkeeper wants to take a vacation.

I am picking up a little French from Mickaël. As it turns out, he went to school to teach Spanish. He is a good teacher and takes the time to explain grammatical points when I mess up (which is often). And Liz, if you happen to read this, he knows French, English, Spanish, Sign Language, Arabic and Russian. You have three languages in common (although I guess French Sign Language has some differences from ASL)!

I spent the evening fixing my internet connection. AGAIN! The cellular broadband modem stopped working with my Mac last week, and with my PC today. I did a reinstall on the PC, which worked, but it did not solve the issue with the Mac. I am guessing there is a protocol somewhere that needs to be trashed that I am missing. What a pain. Now that I think about it, I seem to remember this happening with my UK mobile broadband modem last year, and they are both made by Huawei. I wonder if it is a Huawei issue, or if I am the only person in the world this has happened to...


Of Racewalkers and Dogs

Today Metz hosted the European racewalking championships. I passed by the course early in the day, and there were spectators, coaches, and a cadre of volunteers lined up along the sides to offer moral support. As the racers came by, names were announced, and people cheered.

I continued on my way to find Fort de Queuleu, with a quick stop to stare at the construction site of the Centre Pompidou, and a side trip to a Park I happened upon on the way (entry and photos on those to come later, I hope). I also passed a basketball court, and something in me really wanted to play, even though I have not played in over 20 years. I think the competitive urge dies slowly. Maybe it never does.

The walk was a little longer than I anticipated, and I contemplated taking a shorter route home, but wanted to swing by the racecourse again, so I went back. The spectators and the announcer were long gone. Most of the people remaining were volunteers, and even they were silent and looking a little impatient. But there was one volunteer out there, still cheering on every racer that came by with the same enthusiasm I'd seen him display several hours earlier. His name is Henri (blue shirt in photo), and I felt thankful that he was there.

I admit I am not much of a racewalking fan, but back in the day, I ran 10,000 meters on a 400 meter oval (25 laps). The 10,000 was when everyone else went to lunch! Not many people stayed to cheer on the 10k runners, and even fewer hung around long enough to see in the stragglers. I have done my share of straggling, and have always appreciated the few empathetic souls who are there shouting encouragement to the bitter end. This small mention may not be much, but it is my tribute to Henri and others like him.

I went for another short walk after dinner to work out some of the kinks in my legs. On the way home, I passed the bleachers that had been set up for the race, oblivious to much of the hubbub of cleanup going on around me. And then a dog barked and growled, startling me so much I jumped and let out a yelp! There was a shepherd guarding equiment behind a set of barriers, and I had walked too close to his area! I laughed and noticed his handlers sitting nearby. They seemed amused by my reaction, and friendly, so I ran home, grabbed my camera and ran back to ask if I could take a photo of their dog (right - there is another photo of him in my Lorraine Fauna album). He is a beautiful shepherd, lean, with long, lanky legs. His handler had an iphone, and I entered the url for this blog directly into it, and saw yesterday's entry clear as a bell on his screen ... wow!


Made it Through the Holiday

This a quick entry, mainly so I can make available photos I took of someone today...

Luckily, it seems only Didier had both Thursday and Friday off, because all the stores were open again Friday. I complained to a friend that the French take every holiday they possibly can and are therefore lazy (not to Didier), and he pointed out that I was being lazy for not planning ahead and figuring out the holiday schedule. Touché.

No surprise, I was up wandering the stands of the market this morning. I saw Mickaël, who I bought cologne from a few weeks ago. You met him in my Porte des Allemands entry. Since I am being bolder about asking people if I can plaster their photos on the internet for the world (or at least my friends) to see, I asked to take his. That's Mickaël on the right, and there are two more photos of him in my Marché Couvert album.

Pour Mickaël, si vous lisez ce blog: vous pouvez télécharger vos photos dans mon album Marché Couvert. Vous avez trois photos dans cet album.

So far, no one I have asked has dissented, so I am going back to a tiny little hardware store I visited early on to buy replacement handles for my kitchen cabinet sometime soon. I hope the same lady is there!

Just down the street from my apartment, the European Cup of Racewalking starts at 8:00 tomorrow morning, and goes until evening.  I am debating whether I want to check it out.  It is a major event, and will probably be good publicity for the town, and possibly generate revenues.  Racewalking is also governed by the same bodies as Athletics (track & field), so if there is any chance that I will run into someone I know here, this will be it.  I have been out of it so long, though, that there are not many involved in the sport who would remember me at all, and the chances any of them would be at this event would be pretty slim.  I also have to admit that racewalking looks awkward to me.  Maybe I'll just take a quick peek in the morning and then hunt for Fort Queuleu.

By the way, having internet access problems again.  This time they are specific to my Mac, so at least I still have access from my work laptop.  Unfortunately, I cannot download my bank and credit card transactions and auto-reconcile them (I know, I'm high maintenance).  Good thing I will be home in a few weeks for a few weeks.



I am a creature of habit. Nothing is quite a comforting as consistency for me, and though my routine is usually centered around work, I have other little comforts. Everywhere I have lived, there has been some sort of garden, even if tiny, but this building is completely surrounded by concrete. To satisfy my need for greenery, and my urge for fresh herbs when I cook, I bought herb pots at the marché couvert to put on my widow sill. They are tiny compared to my gigantic plants back home, and I find myself having to wait for them to fill in enough so I can use them, as opposed to having an overabundance, but they are sufficient for me. This photo is from my Lorraine Flora album.

The Marché Couvert has also become part of my routine here. Most Saturday mornings, I can be found there with a horde of other tourists and some locals. I furnished my apartment from the vendors there. Granted, with the ugliest sheet set I have ever laid eyes on, but it covers me at night when my eyes are closed, anyway. I have not taken a photo of the ugly sheets, nor will I. I also buy produce there. The photo at right shows the indoor portion, which houses about half the food vendors. The other half are in the U formed by this building. This past weekend, two women selling mushrooms had the most beautiful purple ones! They were so pretty, I bought a bag. Unfortunately, they had a somewhat bland, grassy, hay-like taste. You can see a photo of them in my Marché Couvert photo album. The rest of Saturday I goof off and take photos.

Because everything is closed on Sundays, it is my official cleaning day. Unfortunately for me, it takes less than an hour to clean 25 square meters! I would also make it laundry day, but it's expensive, at least 8€ to wash and dry, and the washing machines are dinky! I hand wash as much as I can at home, and every 1.5 to 2 weeks tote everything else to the laundromat and cram it all into one load (luckily, I don't have many white things that really need to be white). If I end up staying in Metz longer than my current lease, the next place must have a washing machine, and preferably an oven, too. The rest of Sunday I goof off and take photos.

I was on the phone with an old friend, Didier, last night, who mentioned he had a 4-day weekend, because of the holiday, which means all of France has a 4-day weekend! I again did not plan ahead, and spent this morning wandering, looking for an open grocer. No luck. I am surviving today on lettuce, pasta and an apple. I will probably have a sandwich at Mus and Ceto's at some point (Pamukkale, 26 rue Clovis, 57000 Metz, +33 (0)387 56 95 52). You met them on my Porte des Allemands entry, when Ceto caught me sneaking a photo of his menu. They're good people. They make me laugh, put up with my crappy French and make a real effort to converse with me (and correct my French). I respect them a lot. They work their asses off. Mus is taking a vacation for the first time in 3 years this August. He plans to lie in the sun in Turkey and do nothing!

I also try to go to Maison Petry (photo left, rue Gambetta across from Metz Gare) once a week or so for coffee and a pastry. The ladies who run it are very sweet, although I do not know their names! And the pastries are wonderful, flaky crusts, not cloyingly sweet like a lot of American sweets can be, light but moist cakes. Too bad it is too late in the day to go there...

The work routine? Still accruing a salary. Whether it will be paid is another thing, but as long as my boss is still working (or at least is telling me he is) to secure funding, I'll continue to put in the effort for him. Not quite as doggedly as I was before, but then, I was putting in way more effort than my position and compensation called for.

I scan employment ads daily, and though there aren't many options for an American without a work permit, I apply on the off chance I might have something they need and are willing to go through the rigmarole for me. I am also trying to learn about the economic and business environment here to see if I can find some unfilled niche for consulting. No luck, yet. We'll see...

New News: beginning Tuesday, I am trading English conversation for lessons in French (Alsace/Lorraine) cooking with Arnaud, an Engineering instructor I found through Dominique, who runs Atout Lire Bookshop, and teaches English. He was born in Metz and has lived most of his life in Lorraine, and is knowledgeable of the local dishes. He knew most of the dishes I had on my list, except crème brulée (which was my mom's favorite dessert), but volunteered his girlfriend to teach that to me. Maybe she will want to trade for conversation, too?


L'auberge Espagnole

In the last two weeks, I have been to Nancy and wandered about Metz more. I am still slogging through photos to find ones to post, and gathering my thoughts to relate something that would be either informational or somewhat interesting. That could take awhile.

I finally visited the interior of the St Étienne Cathedral today. Unfortunately, the photos I took were a bust. It is tall, and has an incredible collection of stained glass windows. I sat on the floor at the back of the cathedral, behind the organ pipes, trying to take a photo, and noticed the echoes of all the sounds -- babies crying, murmurs, even the wind -- all at the other end! Everything can be heard, and yet, nothing seemed to overpower, although perhaps the latter is because people tend to be a little quieter in churches. It is an incredible space, and although I am not Christian, I was deeply moved by its sheer presence.

This weekend, a series of events were held in honor of the opening of the Centre Pompidou in Metz (which I believe is not fully operational yet. The unaware person I am, I did not know about the festivities until sometime last night, when I happened to see a pamphlet lying under the mailboxes in my apartment building. So today I did a quick tour of a few of the art exhibits, some of which will remain until October, although everything this weekend was free.

There was a giant red half-sphere (dish?) by Anish Kapoor. The plaque on the door describes it as simple yet imposing ... made of a material that both attracts and intimidates. The viewer's image is both reflected and lost... What struck me about this piece, was not the work itself, but the juxtaposition of the symmetric modern piece installed in a symmetric classical room that had been constructed by skilled craftsmen. I do not know if it was meant to be displayed in such a manner, but it stirred, at least in me, both fascination and repulsion.

FRAC (Fonds Regional d'Art Contemporain) Lorraine hosted À Contre-Corps/Countering the Body, a collection of works centered around a devouring theme. There is black string over everything, including the entry courtyard. At first, I hesitated to walk on it, but it was the only way in, and then I saw others tromping all over it and figured that was expected... and it was! The string theme leads through the museum to different exhibits, a collection of photos with blindfolded participants "devouring" food laid out on a man's abdomen, a video of mouths. Again, fascinating but disturbing. The photo shows the end (or is it the beginning) of the strands of string, with lonely (bored?) docent slouching in the corner.

At the Musées de la Cour d'Or, an Alexander Calder retrospective, a timeline of his life and achievements, a series of mobiles, films of him and his works. There was one film in which the expressionless Calder made mechanical toys of circus animals of his making go through a miniature circus act, life-size scaled down to tiny. Again, something a little creepy about it, reminding me of a Stankmeyer film, but interesting. It also reminded me of a project my housemate, Steven, developed with one of his partners. They did the opposite of Calder, scaling up the tiny, by making the game, Mousetrap, life-size. Steven has moved on, but his partner still travels with that manifestation.

Across from FRAC, a sound display. A film of a cellist (whose name slips my mind) playing next to a canyon, the sounds melding, as the echos rebound to join the new sounds emanating from her instrument. When I arrived, Veronique (in the photo), who was greeting people at the door, offered to show me through the display, since she could speak English. Veronique translated what the other docents were saying for me. She has applied for a position at the new Centre Pompidou-Metz, and if anyone there happens to see this, she is a wonderful person and extremely helpful.

From the museums, I headed to Place Saint-Louis, where I was to see the highlight of my day. A band was mechanically playing the standard pop/oldies/dance pieces, like they were reading from sheet music. There were three "cannons" shooting out soap bubble "snow" over the dance area, where adults and children alike were jumping around, having a good time. The band played some Latin beats, but I have to say that no one dances to Latin beats like Latinos -- tall, proud, shoulders level, yet relaxed, smooth, and well, the hip thing! In the words of Liz Guerrini (née Zaragoza), the French (she actually said Europeans, I think) cannot move their hips. The theme of the dance was L'auberge Espagnole (Spanish inn), although I have to say that other than those few songs, I did not notice anything else that was Spanish, and really, those rhythms belong to Latin America and Africa rather than Spain.

And then I saw them. A couple who had certainly danced together for some time, was gliding across the floor. They moved, smoothly, assuredly, using the whole floor, with a grace that far outpaced anything else moving out there. They were relaxed and obviously enjoying themselves, and indeed a joy to watch as well. My camera batteries were running low, plus, my eye is also not quite as good, nor my shutter as quick as it used to be, but I hope I have captured some of their joyfulness.

Et je les ai vu. Un couple ce qui a bien sûr dansé ensemble pour un long temps, ils ont glissé à travers la piste de danse. Ils avancèrent, doucement, sûrement, employèrent toute la piste de danse. Ils ont été relâché et manifestement ils sont s'amusés, et vraiment une joie pour regarder. Les piles pour mon camera ont diminué, mon oeil n'est pas très bien, et mon obturateur n'est pas très vite, mais j'éspère que j'aie saisi leur joie de vivre un peu.

At some point, I remembered how much I actually enjoy photographing people. There is something about the human character that adds life to an image.

Pendant le séance, je me souvins que j'aime prendre les photos des gens. Il y a quelque chose sur le caractère humain ce que faire la vie dans un image.

I did not catch their names, but I did obtain their permission to use their photos in this blog, and left the url for them. I hope they have the chance to visit and download their photos!

Je ne sais pas ses noms, mais ils me permettent d'utiliser leur photos dans cet blog. J'éspère qu'ils puissent visiter et télécharger leur photos.

Photos for this entry are in my Metz Events album (there are other photos there as well).

Les photos pour cette note sont dans mon album Metz Events (il y a les autres photos, aussi).