Sunday, December 30, 2007

Xmas in France, la conclusion

After the gift-giving Sunday, we ended up having another huge meal for lunch in the upstairs dining room. This time I had a more interesting seat, as I was seated between two of my 20ish nieces. It was fascinating to talk about their lives and get the perspective of a college students in France. One of the things I remarked with them, that I had observed in many of my conversations was that the French educational system really forces the 'users' to figure out what they want to do with their lives much earlier than we do in the states, having to specialize in their post high school (and often even during high school) education. I leave it for the user to decide whether this is a good idea. I'm sure the corporate world feels like it is a good idea, as they are more than happy to see the lemmings self-organize early on, but I'll save that diatribe for another time.

One of the things I neglected to mention about the previous night's dinner is that my aunt is apparently renowned for the cheese plates that she breaks out during these galas. Well, they are right. Before dessert, they passed around two two foot diameter platters stuffed with over 10 cheeses each. Naturally, the platters made a long stop at my plate as I cut a piece of each one onto my plate. Naturally, this was accompanied with copious amounts of French bread. I have to admit, I do love 'stinky' French cheeses. While you can get many if not most of them in the states, you usually have to go to places like Formaggio's Kitchen in Cambridge and pay through the nose. And you definitely won't have access to a lot of the 'micro' cheeses (similar to microbreweries). Well, they passed the same cheese plate around for Sunday lunch AND Sunday dinner, and I chowed down each time.

After lunch, there were lots of motions to try and get a soccer game up, but these never really came to fruition. So I corralled Gillem, a 19 yr old (or so) cousin, who had been asking a couple of people if they wanted to play tennis, and asked him if he wanted to play. He was psyched to play, so we changed into our sport clothes (shorts for him, T-shirt and sweats for me), and headed out to the tennis court. My brother had brought a couple of rackets, so I picked one of them, made a mental note to razz him about getting them regripped, which was especially difficult in the cold air, and we headed off to the tennis court, which was on the adjacent property. My aunt's husband (yes, uncle) and his two brothers own contiguous properties in the area, all centered around a castle which is owned by one the them. The tennis courts was on the castle property, and we had open access to all of it.

Gillem and I set up camp on the very hard court and starting hitting some rallies. Other than playing against my brother a few times this summer in Rye, I had not played any tennis of note in at least 10 years, and no more than 20 times since I graduated high school (and the high school tennis team) 22 years ago. Ultimate quickly took over and did not leave much free time to keep my tennis game up. We hacked around for quite awhile, and another nephew, Charles-Henri, joined us for awhile, although he played on my side which cut my chances in half... He finally gave up with a bad knee, and Gillem and I hit around for another while before I asked whether he wanted to play a game. He was all for it, so we flipped for serve and I won and chose to serve. Meanwhile, the sun was pretty low in the sky, so he wisely chose to receive in the sun for one game. I won that game, and then we switched sides. By now, the sun was even lower, and directly in my eyes. I had to hold my hand up to try and block out the sun during his serve, and when he tossed the ball up, I always lost it. Fortunately, he always served to my forehand side, so the ball would eventually appear. If he had served to my backhand, it would have never come out of the sun until too late. We had probably 10 deuces in this game before I finally won. I ended up taking the first set 6-0, although we had a number of good points and close games. I won the first game to start the second set, and this is where the wheels fell off. Well, not really. He won the next game to make it 1-1. The games and points were definitely closer as we were both 'warmed up' by now. Of course, as we were getting warmed up, the temperature was continuing to drop now that the sun had gone down. By the end, it couldn't have been more than 35 degrees out there. Despite a number of close games, I eventually took the second set 6-1 and we called it a day as we were actually having difficulty seeing the ball by the end.

We walked back to the compound, and were accosted by various relatives on the way. Gillem sheepishly admitted to his loss, while I mentioned that I had had to defend our generation against the upstarts. Ultimate conditioning definitely made a difference in the game, even if the season has been over for two months. I think it is more of a competitive mindset and willingness to sacrifice your body. I ran down a number of balls, both short and lobs, that I know he was very surprised that I got. It felt great to run again. I should explore tennis a little more in the off season for some cross-training. Of course, that would involve purchasing a new tennis racket, since I lost mine like 15 years ago after playing Jimmy P over at MIT one day. I haven't seen it since.

That night, the conquering hero... well, we all had another great dinner in the attic, I was in another section of young relatives, next to my 15 year old niece Chrystel on one side, and relatively the same age Maelys on the other. They had made sure to set us up boy/girl around the entire table for every meal. It was great fun, and Gillem sat next to Maelys, so we were plying each other with red wine for the entire meal. Of course, I had to offer it to him because my cousin Sophie, his mom, was observing from across the table with a jaundiced eye, but he definitely kept up. Another round on the cheese plate, a large serving from the local bottle of Calvados, and then we were done.

One other sidebar from this dinner. At one point, I have no idea how it came up, but I asked the kids if they could get their hands on a can of beer. This went into a discussion of shotgunning, and I was telling them I could finish a can of beer in under 3 seconds. I never explained how, just that if they got me a can, I would show them. They didn't have any, of course, and we were racking our minds trying to figure out how to get one. Next door neighbors, local gas station. Unfortunately, it was Sunday night of Xmas in France, and Sunday is already pretty closed unlike the states. I eventually said I would show them with ANY can, but we couldn't find one. I never gave them the details on how I would do it. It was funny, they were asking if I meant that I would empty the can that quickly, etc. They were disbelieving when I finally confirmed that I meant that I would actually consume and swallow the entire contents in under 3 seconds. Oh well, something to bring out of the quiver the next time I see them.

There was a lot of game-playing (backgammon and others). Meanwhile, during the whole stay there, I had setup my laptop in the main room with my downloaded pictures from the visit to Tanqueux (the compound) and had it running on a slide show for the entire time. As people passed by, they would watch for awhile and move on. I downloaded a new slug of pictures probably every 4 hours or so and would shift the slide show to the latest slug. It was definitely would be a topic of conversation at times.

Finally, I pack in preparation for my 9AM departure the next day, and we finally turn in around midnight. Up the next morning, get a ride to the local train station (RER) with my brother and mom, and then take it to Notre-Dame/St Michel, switch to another one, fortunately an express to CDG, and get to my plane with plenty of time to spare, although I had to remove a bunch of stuff from my checkin bag to make the weight limits. I also had fun with doing the wrong line because it was a Delta ticket on an Air France flight, but we eventually took off and got in an hour late. Georgia and the kids were waiting for me (Logan finally has a cell phone lot!), and my trip was over. Until the next one...

Oh yeah, and the final picture of the entire clan. I'm on the far left. Grandma is sitting in the middle with my father right behind her.

Read more!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Xmas in France, part quatre

So Thursday night we all met (brother, girlfriend and parents) at a restaurant called Le Troquet. None of us showed up together, but we all arrived with 5 minutes of 7:30 for our reservation. This was a basque restaurant that my brother knew about, and it was GREAT. Reasonably cheap menu fixe for appetizer, entree, and desert. I had the sausage sampler for appetizer, which was a basket of 9 different sausages that you could cut slices off to your hearts desire, complete with cornichons, pearl onions, and bread. For main course, I had deer in a yummy sauce, and pineapple skewers for dessert. Awesome! Then back to my brothers for our obligatory late night bottle of wine before crashing for my final night in downtown Paris.

The next day, up at 8:30ish and looking for something to do. I call my parents over at the place they are staying looking for ideas. They reel off a bunch of stuff that I have already done at one point or another in the last 15 years. I know, your hearts bleed for me, but it is already difficult enough to do something touristy again, and doing it ALONE is ridiculous. We couldn't come up with anything, so I went out for a walk, ended up at Les Halles mall, browsed for an hour, bought a Parisscope to see if there was anything going on, found the movie listings, and ended up planning to go to the Champs and see I Am Legend in v.o. (version originale, or English with French subtitles). It's funny, all the American movies playing on the Champs are in English with subtitles, where when you start doing the suburbs, it switches to the dubbed versions. It's also very amusing to see how they translate certain quintessential American expressions, and you realize what is lost in translation. Pretty good, if disturbing movie. I skimmed the book by Richard Matheson back in the day in a bookstore, but I don't remember enough of it to see whether the movie was faithful to the book or not. I believe it was not...

After the movie, I drifted back down the Champs, not having had ANYTHING to eat all day. I was expecting to have popcorn with the movie, but they were doing a bunch of construction, and did not sell anything. I ended up back at L'Entrecote, International Herald Tribune in hand, and had another serving of the fries and sauce while I caught up on the news for the first time since I was here. Nothing dramatic in the paper, unsurprisingly. Back to the apartment to start packing my bags, which I have to bring to my brothers apartment before we leave for my aunt's house. Including the transformer, which I was bringing for my laptop (and again, HUGELY heavy), my large rolling bag ended up being so heavy, that I eschewed taking it on the metro, and instead caught a bus to the train station. It ended up being that the worst stairs were the single flight out of the apartment. But when I mean heavy, it was probably 50+ pounds. Which of course will be too much for the airplane to travel for free. I expect that I will redistribute all the heavy stuff to my backpack, and also put a bunch of stuff in some plastic bags to carry as if they were 'purchases' that I had made since I passed through security.

Met my brother, we went to pick up his kids, and then off to Tanqueux (name of the 'compound'). We made great time, with surprisingly no traffic. An hour later, we showed up at a place I hadn't seen since my cousin's wedding 16 years ago. We get in around 10:30, and hang out until 12:30 to see the other cousin's dribbling in. They were totally organized, including a map of the place with all of the people's names in the rooms where they were staying. 60 total, and they had mattresses for everyone. They only had to borrow one mattress from some neighbors. Finally crash, and next morning, the rest of the family drifts in by lunch. At one point, we go for a long walk qround the property, which my 97-yr-old grandmother does in its entirety, which is mind-boggling. Probably about a mile walk. Back for lunch, with the older generation in the main room and the kids 14 and below in a separate building with some 'tenders' which was also all scheduled (in terms of who was covering what meal).

After lunch, the big event was going off to another part and cutting up some trees that had fallen into this waterway. Probably 15 of us, 3 chainsaws, a block and tackle plus steel cord for pulling things, and of course lots of electronic gear to capture it all. One of the trees was reasonably slim, but the other one had a diamter of at least 3 feet near the base, so it was cut off a slice, drag it up, cut off another slice (and roll the slice out of the way), and so on. We were out there for probably 3 hours. At one point, a bunch of the other cousins came out to spectate with a bunch of the wee bairns. Then back to the house for a snack, and preparation for the church service, which all 60 of us were going to attend. Apparently they had worked with the priest to plan the entire service. Well, we all pour out in our cars, get their 10 kilometers later, and walk into an unheated church! It was no more than 35 degrees in the church during the entire service. Foggy breath and everything. And they had planned a way too long service, with too much singing considering the conditions. I even had to get up at one point and do a reading in French. Fortunately I didn't screw up, but it was a little nerve-wracking.

Back to the house, and then they finally unveiled the second floor of the main house. My aunt had created a spectacular setup as you can see below.

I think we were about 35 people around the table. They had a table map and everything. With everything else going well so far, this was probably my biggest complaint on the weekend, as they put me on the side of the table with the oldest generation. People were intermingled freely, alternating sexes, but it wouldn't have been my first choice of seating. I made the best of it however. The meal was great, and we ended up with this cake for dessert, of which I had 3 servings. The third serving was with a large slug of Calvados, which had been made locally and was like firewater. From there, everyone descended to the main barn where they had set up a dance floor, complete with huge speakers, laptops running iTunes, and everyone danced for the next 3 hours. The French have this dance, le Roc, which is great to watch, and aggravates me because when they are doing it, I can't go on the floor because I would look like an idiot. Of course, I probably look like an idiot anyway... Finally crash at 1AM.

The next morning was the gift opening for the under 10 set. The prior night, the parents had set up stacks of gifts in the main room by the tree, with a shoe identifying whose stack it was (a shoe from each child). After breakfast, the kids descended and opened all the gifts in no more than 15 minutes. It was a total madhouse. Keep your hands AWAY from the area, or you might lose them. And right now I'm about to go outside and hurt myself playing soccer. Now THIS will probably be the last one before I get back. Let me see if I can dig up some more pictures.

Oh yeah, one of my cousins had to catch up on his flying, so he buzzed us at the house around 11AM on Saturday. Picture below.

And finally, the dancing

Read more!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Xmas in France, part trois

Now that Idris is refreshing ultimatetalk, these France blog entries will probably get me kicked off syndication, but oh well. Um, something about Worlds in Vancouver in 2008, Turkey Bowl in 2007, blah, blah, blah. Alright, back to Paris.

Today was walking day. Paris is a GREAT city to walk in, although this is the first time I've been here in December and I was older than 10. It is DEFINITELY cold here, not making it much out of the low 30's every day. This is atypically cold for this time of year, so the one benefit is that almost every day the sky has been completely blue, with not a cloud to be seen. If you have been to Paris, you know what I'm talking about, especially in the winter. This place is typically grimy, overcast, moist, etc. To have 5 straight cloudless days is a rarity, and has resulted in some great photo opportunities. The fact that the sun is low in the sky most of the day (much high latitude than Boston) helps to get good photo light for a good chunk of the morning and the afternoon. It is definitely weird to have it pretty dark out at 8AM in the morning, although it helps as I'm crashing on a couch, so I don't wake up to the sun until 8:30 or so (and I have those Bucky eye shades just in case).

So roused at 8:30 this morning, showered, and then headed south for Ile de la Cite, where Notre Dame resides. I walked the whole way down the Rue St. Denis, which is packed with XXX shops, peep shows, and one section had at least 7 prostitutes hanging out by doorways. Pretty funny. I had forgotten about the prostitutes from the last time I was hear in 2005. Stopped by Les Halles for some pictures, then off to Notre Dame whose front face was in shadow, but I hurried around to the other side to get the good light, and then off to Ile Saint Louis to do a quick walkaround. I had never been there before, and it was a little 'island' of calm in the midst of Paris.

Back across the bridge, and I stopped by the Sainte Chapelle to see the gorgeous stained glass windows and hopefully get a good shot. Unfortunately, part of the windows had catwalks up (doing work on them) AND the line was really long, so I punted. I went to BHV, a department store, continuing my quest for a little espresso maker that would do single servings. This place was even worse, as the smallest size they had was 6 servings. I'm not normally a coffee drinker, but you get in the habit when you are in Europe, and I'm thinking of trying to drink a little more when I'm back in the states. Jury is out on the health benefits of coffee, although since I'm fortunately reasonably healthy (knock on wood), I think the positives will outweigh the negatives.

Failing at BHV (second major department store to ice me), I headed back to the apartment to drop off some stuff, including a bunch of Asterix that I had purchased, and then off to Rue de Rocher near Gare St. Lazare to meet a female cousin of mine for lunch. This was the first time that I had ever met with one of my cousins one on one. Typically we see each other en famille, or at reunions with a bunch of family, so it was very cool to just hang out alone and talk about stuff. She took me to a roofdeck restaurant on top of the Printemps store where we noshed on seriously expensive food (even without the crappy dollar exchange rate, the stuff was way expensive) and caught up. After that, we went and did some errands, checking out Fnac for my espresso machine, they still had nada, so I finally broke down and bought a 3 serving size one. Meanwhile, she was looking for a unicycle for her 10-yr-old son, who apparently is loving them right now. She failed in that quest. Back to her apartment for some coffee, then she had to head out to pick up her remaining children at school around 4:30. So we said goodbye, two-cheek kiss, and then said a bientot to tomorrow night, as we will be meeting at her parents place for the weekend. Back to the apartment to pick up my 'library' kit of laptop and transformer, and here I am. Tonight my brother, his girlfriend, and my parents are all having dinner at a restaurant, Le Troquet. I will be treating, although I imagine it will be a battle with my parents... I may end up having to let them buy the wine, of which I imagine we will imbibe a good chunk. I just realized I don't have my camera for today's pictures, but I'll see if I can find a couple of good ones from yesterday.

I thought this one was clever. It was some bistro/bar on the Champs-Elysées.

And of course, now that I had somebody else around (my parents in this case, after lunch at my grandmothers), I set up my Dad to take this picture from her roofdeck.

Just to prove that I'm here... There is a good chance this is my last internet until I get home, and I'm sure you're all thrilled to see these end, but I figure I'll have at least one more probably when I get back, just to wrap things up. Until then. Oh yeah, insert something ultimate related here.

Read more!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Xmas in France, part deux

!!! I finally got on the internet from my laptop. But let me tell you, it wasn't easy.

After doing some more research, apparently Paris is blanketed with free wifi, just not in the area I'm staying. All of the public libraries have free internet, so I found one a few blocks away that happened to be in the mayors building for the arrondissement. It was unfortunately closed Monday, which I figured out 5 minutes before I was about to leave. So, I head over Tuesday around 5 (closes at 7PM) and at the entrance are two security guards. Meanwhile, in my backpack I'm carrying a HUGE and have transformer because my laptop chokes on the French power. They didn't end up frisking me but did ask where I was going. Once I said library, they let me through. Then, inside another woman comes up and asks me what I'm doing. I say library, and she points me to the 5th floor and elevator. Phew! Get in the library, find the last remaining seat, it has a plug, I pull my transformer out, and lo and behold, I get on the internet. Woo-hoo! First thing I did was check my email and then go through my work email so I'm not bludgeoned with 600 mails when I get home. Fortunately, most people are on vacation right now, so only 160 notes in 5 days.

After the library, head back to the apartment, and my brother finally shows up at 9PM. We immediately meet his girlfriend and some friends at a Lebanese restaurant for dinner, then back to the house, a bottle of wine, and thou... Next day is my first real tourist day. Get up early with my brother who is on his way to work at 8AM. Finally get out of the house at 9:30 or so and take the subway to the bottom of Montmartre, where the cathedral of Sacre Coeur resides. I take a walking tour of the area, seeing a bunch of places where painters like Vincent Van Gogh, Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec resided during the areas bohemian days. Visited the Dali museum which showed the breadth of the man's imagination. Finally ended up at the Musee de L'erotisme, an erotic/porn museum. This place was pretty cool. 5 floors of a tiny building dedicated to sculptures, drawings and paintings from around the world and throughout history. I'm telling you, we had NOTHING on the ancients in terms of sexual variety. They were also playing porn videos from the 20's in one area. Pretty damn funny. They definitely had different ideas of beauty back then.

Caught a subway to the Left bank/St. Germain-des-Pres and commenced another walking tour. This one wasn't quite as exciting . Getting cold, so I surprise my brother at his office at Place Vendome, then head back to the apartment before humping my way to the library for two hours. After that, back to the apartment to drop everything off, then another subway to the Champs-Elysees to meet my brother and a friend of his at the Cervoise, a beer place right off the Champs. This is us doing 3 rounds (1 apiece) of the beer sampler.

Oh, and the Champs was beautifully made up for the holidays, as you can see from the picture below.

Then back to the apartment for yet another bottle of wine and some appetizers. Get to sleep around midnight, and up the next morning at 9. Hang around the apartment until 11, and then off to my grandmothers to meet my parents and grandmother for lunch. My parents had just gotten in that morning. We have lunch, which is ordered in advance, and it's fish. Joy. No I don't like seafood, but my grandmother will never know that by how I chowed down. Had to borrow a jacket and tie from my brother for the lunch. I can't even remember the last time I wore a tie, definitely over a year ago.

Then, off to do some more shenanigans, back to the apartment, off to the library, which closes at 6PM tonight, in 20 minutes. And still have no idea what we are doing tonight, although I hope it involves a good meal and some strong drink. I only have two days left before we head to my aunt's outside Paris for 2 days with the ENTIRE family of over 60, of which the ONLY missing person will be my brother. Ugh. I'll make sure to take lots of pictures to annoy him. Seriously, that points out how tragic it is that he couldn't make it, as this will probably be the last opportunity for the entire family to be together in one place, especially with my 97-yr-old grandmother, who was surprisingly spry today, despite the fact that she had a mini-stroke yesterday, her 8th in the last few years. That's about it for part deux.

Read more!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Xmas in France, Part I

I am writing this from a gorgeous apartment in the 10th arrondisement in Paris. Unfortunately, it doesn't have WiFi, and I have spent about 3 hours trying various shenanigans to try and get it going, all to no avail. So tomorrow I will be on a hunt for free wifi.

This trip to France grew out of the fact that my divorced brother (who lives in Paris) only has his kids every other Xmas, which he brings to my parents in Rye. This is his off-year, so he was spending it in France. My parents decided to go also, as they hadn't spent Christmas with the French side of the family in years. At that point, I decided to hump along, as did my other brother in California. Naturally, such a family reunion couldn't come off smoothly, and it didn't. 2 weeks ago, my California brother screwed up his foot so badly playing basketball that he is unable to walk, and basically had to cancel his trip, which is terrible because my other brother is working this week and I was looking forward to spending some quality time with him. Oh well.

The trip out here was eventful, as I was supposed to leave Thursday night at 5:40PM. First noreaster of the season in Boston, we boarded at 7:30, and finally took off at midnight. At least we were able to walk around while we were attached to the gate. The deicing took over an hour and they had to refill the de-icer tanks the wings were so full of snow. Apparently 100 other flights were cancelled that day in Boston. I'm pretty sure it is more painful to cancel the intercontinental flights than ones within the US, so I did feel reasonably assured that we were going to take off. I finally arrived in Paris at 1:30PM instead of 6:15AM. Missed lunch at my grandmothers. Furthermore, I was supposed to meet my brother at the train at Saint-Lazare at 1:30 to go to his place in the burbs, pick up his car, and then go pick up his two daughters at their private school an hour out of Paris. So I'm trying to call him to let him know I'm at the airport instead of the train. I have his cell phone number, but he is not answering. I'm leaving somewhat inflammatory messages, like what the hell do you have a cell phone for, you know I'm coming in and late, etc. I call my parents in the US, and we commiserate, and I ask them for his home number to leave a message, and they end up giving me the number that I had thought was his cell. My other brother, who I had called from the airplane for Eric's cell phone number, had given me the wrong number. So I now called the cell phone, and naturally he STILL didn't answer. Finally, at 2:20, he answers, saying he was in an analyst (finance) lunch with a CEO, and it was 'inappropriate' to take calls. After laying into him, we decided that I should take a taxi to his place, and then we would leave. I do so, costs 45 Euros, which used to be cheap at 0.85 to the dollar, and is now expensive at 1.45 to the dollar. We are driving to the school, and we go RIGHT past the airport. Naturally I excoriate him for not just choosing to pick me up at the airport instead of taking the taxi. We finally get that out of the way, and the visit is on. Pick the kids up, do family stuff, come home, some dinner, some digestifs (after dinner drinks), and then I finally call it quits at 11:30PM, with almost no sleep since Thursday morning at 7AM (the Ambien I took on the flight shockingly only put me out for about 1.5 hours). LONG day.

Saturday and Sunday we did family stuff, hanging out, shopping, eating, playing games, watching stupid Mtv shows translated into French with the English in the background. Like the girlfriend trading one, the parents picking the date one. Always interesting to hear the translations. It is stuff like that that makes you wish you could watch and understand all movies in their original language, because you really do lose a lot in the translation.

Today transferred to my brother's girlfriend's apartment in the middle of Paris, where I'm staying until Friday. BTW, my brother does NOT have internet, although he does have a computer. He had a DOOM3 CD which he couldn't get to work, and he had me take a look. I found that it didn't like his graphics card, although according to the documentation, it should have. So I wanted to update the driver. Well, when you don't have internet, you can suck it. Unbelievably frustrating not having internet access. We ended up going to his girlfriends, I brought a USB drive, downloaded the driver, downloaded a new version of Itunes (7.5x to replace his 6.0 version), and Picasa because he had a new digital camera that he hadn't even taken the pictures off of yet. Went back to his place, installed everything, and sho' 'nuff, Doom3 worked. We played for a little bit (good graphics), and then dinner, the 3 musketeers, which was supposed to be in v.o. (version originale), and you could choosed French or the original language. We were looking foward to watching it in English only to discover that the original language was an ALREADY dubbed German. Ugh. So we stuck with the French soundtrack, and again, having seen the movie quite a few times, it was obvious that a lot was lost in translation.

Today was errand day. Went to Galeries Lafayettes to get some stuff for Georgia and the kids, and some 3 year Calvados for myself. Ate lunch at L'Entrecote with my brother. This place is famous for its 'secret sauce' and unlimited french fries. It is basically a fixed price menu with a salad, then a small steak and unlimited french fries with the REALLY good sauce. Pictures below.

And finally

Note that we shared TWO plates of fries this size. I make it a point to eat there at least once every visit to Paris. Then back to Galeries for more errands, then home to try and hook up to the internet. She has an ADSL modem with a USB output! I had planned to try and buy a wireless router and hook it up while I was there, and then at the end of the week, she could decide whether she wanted to keep the always on connection, or whether I would try to return it and get cash back. Well, there are no routers that take a USB (instead of Ethernet/Cat5) connection as the input. Talk about frustrating. So I explained that maybe I could connect from my laptop to the desktops ethernet port and configure the desktop to share it. He said I could do that, so I bought the appropriate ethernet cable and went back to the apartment. Lo and behold, I couldn't configure her desktop to share the connection. Everytime I checked the box, it said failed to share the connection. Then I tried to configure my laptop to acess her modem directly over USB. I downloaded the driver for the modem (which took awhile to find), but THAT install didn't take on my laptop, even while I had the USB connected. At this point, I have given up. I'm now writing this in a text file on my laptop, then I'm going to transfer it via USB drive to her desktop and submit it to blogspot from there, because she has a french keyboard, and it is REALLY a pain in the butt to type with the french setup.

I actually researched free wifi connections in Paris, of which now all the municipal libraries have. I was about to pack up and leave when I noticed that ALL libraries are closed on Mondays. They also have wireless in some outdoor parks, of which one was listed nearby, so I humped my laptop over there and in 25 degree weather, tried to connect to the wifi. It found it, but would not complete the connection. So finally I went back to the apartment and cobbled together the approach I'm using now, transferring stuff between computers. More later

Read more!