June 1st, 2007

the only earth?

on the border seaparting the sixth and fourteenth arrondissments: 31 may


Before relocating to the conference hotel, we walked around the neighborhood, making sure to note the locations of the falafel and brique places for future reference. There was also some shopping, visiting the Hotel de Ville and its plaza filled with demonstration gardens of the scope of French vegetation and ability to build sofas from grass and to cultivate brightly colored flowers. A small lunch near the Odeon, and then it was time to send one of our group back to the Netherlands and cart our luggage up and down through the surprising number of stairways in the Metro and and the intermittent rainstorms.

Dinner brought us to a cuban restaurant, which was exciting only for the fact that they had a clearly-labeled vegetarian plate on the menu. At one point, a stray solimente convinced the waitress that we'd rather speak to her in Spanish. Some older men in the back of the restaurant smoked many pungent cigars, which was both unpleasant and slightly funny for cliche value alone.

Back at the new hotel, I learned that the conference organizers had assigned me a roommate who snored loudly.
beach, outside

1 june : montparnasse

This is the first day of the conference; so much of the day is spent in a large old lecture hall possibly designed for medical students to sit on uncomfortable benches arranged steeply to allow viewing of procedures below. I take pages and pages of notes in my little black moleskine notebook, partially out of interest, partially to stay awake between tiny plastic cups of coffee while adjusting to the 8 hours of timezones. A guy who wrote a huge paper with nearly a thousand references gives a talk, but I don't realize who he is until halfway through.

Our group occupies a cute little restaurant for dinner and they even bring me vegetarian items along with lots of wine. Maybe there's a stop in between, but by the end of the night we all find ourselves sitting outside at a brasserie in Montparnasse near our hotel called La Rotonde [flickr].

Couples keep stopping at the corner to kiss. Due to the configuration of the seating, I almost never notice this, but it proves distracting and mildly annoying to some of our party. At midnight, the streets are filled with rollerskaters making a tour of the city. As the crowd thins, we learn about all of the horrible curses employed by the Dutch, who find the fact that American profanity tends toward the scatological or sexual amusing. Most of theirs relate to having awful diseases.