Wednesday, May 31, 2006


Let's start off with the most important: I found the file I needed most in the archives. It's all the letters Rabinovitch (the Hebrew translator of Graetz) sent the Alliance, including his request to renew their underwriting of his translation. While I don't (yet) have the original offer by the Alliance, I now know who made it and when it was made, so I may yet find that too. I photographed so many documents, I ran out the batteries on my camera in one morning.

I celebrated with a chicken sandwich from the local boulangerie. It came with my choice of dessert, so today I chose something called the Martiniqoise (it had coconut and raspberries -- yesterday I had the coconut flan -- both were delicious).

Last night, I had a terrific dinner at Le Boule Rouge (1 Rue de la Boule Rouge), a kosher Tunisian restaurant. I had the mergez starter (two spicy sausages), but even before they came, I had a nice mezze with spicy carrots, etc. I ordered the couscous de la maison for my main course. The couscous was the best I've ever had, and it came with a plate of meats and vegetables that was clearly meant for a table of four. I was bursting by the time I put my fork down, with much still left on the plate.

I was too full to eat dessert right away, so I ordered tea. It was mint, sweet, and with little pieces of almond (I think) soaked in it. Then I got my dessert. I couldn't make out the name; something like "pastis" or "galette." It tasted like almond cake soaked in a sweet sauce with rosewater. It was very, very good. By the time I left (only 25 Euros lighter) I felt I was about to burst.

This afternoon, I went to the Musee d'Orsay. The line was much shorter and I got in in no time at all. I rented the audioguide, but was disappointed with it. Instead of putting the paintings in their historical context, it would focus on irrelevant information (such as "the harbor depicted in this painting reverses the way it actually appears), but omits things such as pointalism, or how the painting fits into the larger artistic trends of the time.

Afterwards I went to the newly reopened L'Orangerie. There was a long line and for a while I didn't think I would get in, but after about 40 minutes, I did. The ground floor contains the famous waterlily paintings. They didn't look any different from when I saw them 14 years ago. After touring them, I thought I might pop downstairs and see what the new stuff they added was. Well, it's great. I actually liked the collection of Derain, Utrillo, Cezanne, Renoir, Soutine, Picasso, etc. there much more than in the D'Orsay.

Now it's off to dinner at my favorite bistro in Paris: Chez Maitre Paul (Odeon metro stop). I already know what I'm getting: it's something with the words "poulet" and "gratine" in the name. I once saw a recipe for it in Patricia Well's book on bistros of Paris. The recipe went on for 3-4 pages and had over a dozen steps. I've never made but it's their signature dish and I love it.

Tomorrow morning, I'm up early for my flight to Vienna.

A Bientot

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Making Progress

Yesterday, I only made to the front door of the archives; today I made it inside. I arriv'ed at 9:15, and made my way to the library. It is strange to think that such a monumental institution as the Alliance Israèlite Universelle has only one staff person on hand, yet compared to some other archives I've been in, this one is quite advanced. It is clean, dry, and comfortable. They even have (some) of their records computerized, though, as it turned out, none of mine were.

I explained that I wanted to see material related to Heinirch Graetz. A computer search revealed: no documents in the archives. That's impossible, I said, he headed one of the largest committees of the Alliance. I finally found him in the catalogue under Pologne (a decision that probably had hi, spinning in his grave. I went through about 80% of the file of his correspondence before the archivist told me they would be closing for lunch. Actually for the day, because in the afternoon, the room is only used as a library. Instead of photocopies, she told me I could photograph the documents I wanted with my digital camera; very James Bond).

With the afternoon free, I grabbed a sandwich, soda and dessert from a boulangerie and after a quick lunch in a park, I decided to visit the Musée d'Orsay. Unfortunately, so did every other tourist in Paris. It turns out that the Louvre, Centre Pompidou, Cluny, and Orangerie are closed on Tuesdays. I refused to wait forever just to be jammed like a sardine. Luckily, a fellow tourist looked up the Musée Carnevalet in her book and saw it was open.

Turns out it's free today -- and empty!! No waiting, no crowds. The Carnevalet is a museum dedicated to the history of the city of Paris. Lot's of great stuff from Francis I through the Third Republic. I'm ashamed to admit, however, that my energy began to flag by the time I reached the Second Empire. I decided I desparately needed coffee and sugar.

I went to Rue de Rosiers (the main Jewish street in Paris) and got a tea au lait. I tried to chat with some of the other patrons, but unfortunately, none spoke Hebrew, and only one had so,e broken English (my spoken French remains quite poor, mais se devant meilleur).

Tonight, I'm going to try to find a Jewish-Tunisian restaurant near Grand Boulevards. My other dinners so far have been forgettable, so I have high hopes.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Slowly making progress

Yesterday afternoon I went to the Musee d'art et d'histoire du judaisme (the Museum of the Art and History of Judaism). I was able to catch the special exhibit on the efforts of ORT to aid Soviet Jews in the interwar years, up until they were effectively shut down by Stalin just before the outbreak of WWII. The main exhibit, on the cultural history and art of Jews is reminiscent of the ethnographic section at the Israel Museum, but put together in a somewhat nicer fashion. I particularly liked the Holocaust Memorial in a small courtyard. The building in which the museum is housed used to be a block of flats. The curators identified as many of the people who were living in the house in 1939 and 1940, and then placed placards with their names, occupations, and in the case of 12 of them, the dates of their deportation to Auschwitz.

Today I headed out to Alliance Israelite Universelle in order to use their archives. When I got there, I was told, of course, that I needed to make an appointment to visit. The fact that I had written them a month ago and five months before that appears to have escaped them. Thankfully, they have allowed me to make an appointment for tomorrow morning, so I am slowly making progess.

Since my day was now free, I decided (after a quick trip back to my hotel to pick up an umbrella as it was now threatening to rain) to spend the afternoon at the Louvre. Last time I went, I spent most of my time in the Greek and Roman wings. Today, I first went to the Islamic Arts and Middle Eastern antiquities wings. Much beautiful calligraphy and workmanship, and of course, some fabulous ancient pieces, including the Code of Hammurabi (earliest legal code), some pre-cunieform tablets (earliest writing), and some big pieces from Ninevah.

Museums can be hard on the feet, so having learned my lesson from yesterday's visit to the Pompidou, I had a nice cafe au lait, did the NY Times crossword puzzle, and then went back to touring the museum. This time I went to the see the early renaissance pieces from Northern Europe, France, and finally Italy. The latter was the most crowded part of the museum. I think at least two-thirds to three-quarters of the people who visit the museum only go to the Italian renaissance section. The museum is trying to capitalize on the Da Vinci Code excitement: you can get an audio headset (read by Jean Reno) that will discuss only museum sights mentioned in the book or film. This costs 10 euros. If you want an audio guide to the entire museum, on the other hand, you need only pay 5 euros (I went with the latter, particularly as I haven't read the book).

Despite threatening rain, it cleared up and turned into a very pleasant afternoon. Cool and temparate (I'm one of the few people not in a coat as I'm quite comfortable in my long sleeve shirt and pants), I have been very fortunate with the weather.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Le plus ça change

Well what a difference a day makes. Yesterday lasted 36 hours, but seemed to last forever. I was selected for super security screening twice, I had two flights delayed by over an hour, and missed my train connection in Frankfurt by only 10 minutes.

But once Iwas on the train, things began to improve. No matter how tired you are, the Rhine valley is still gorgeous. The ruined castles can excite even the most exhausted imagination. Living in So. Cal., one seemply accepts as normal the overwhelming browness of everything. It was wonderful to see green again.

The hotel is clean and comfortable. They have internet (though it was down this morning). The French keyboard is slightly different from the American, so if you see the following errors, you will know why: a for q, w for z, , for m, m for ;.

Today is a gorgeous day in Paris. I spent 4 hours at the Pompidou Centre touring their exhibit on Los Angeles. It is strange coming so far just to see LA.

It has been nearly 10 years since I've been to Paris. The city is much more diverse than I remembered it, but it still feels the same.

I thought I would spend the afternoon just strolling. Tomorrow I'm off to the archives.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The journey of a thousand miles....

Well, after forgetting to lock my front door and having to drive back to double check, I finally started on my trip.

1st down to San Diego to drop off my car, then up to LA to spend the night before my flight tomorrow morning.

I've got one more chance to lighten and repack my bags. Hopefully, I'll be able to bring both as carryons and avoid checking any luggage.

Time to try and get some sleep.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


I've created this site so friends and family can keep track of me while I'm traveling in Europe this summer.