Picture tutti_i_treni.jpg As a kid, sport wasn’t really represented in the realm of family activities. My dad not really the sport guy (must be genetic), except for Judo, which is not exactly your ideal father-son bonding sport. The occasional quality time was therefore spent mostly on two things: lego and train models.

Lego was the passion of my life, my only career inspiration at the time, still would be, if not for these damn high school orientation counselors.

Train models and all these cute little house models that go around, were my dad’s real interest, in true british fireplace&slippers fashion…

Unfortunately, far too frequent travels and moves always stood in the way of his grand project to turn one of the room in the decrepit family manor into a morsel of bucolic alpine landscape, complete with countryside train stations, small river flowing in the middle and of course, the perfunctory tunnel through the mountain.

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A few essential lessons learnt the hard way about getting on a short-distance European flight from London. Placed here for the benefit of those who might suffer from the same level of brain-cell degeneration and lack of common sense as yours truly.

  • Obvious Point #1 Booking the last flight of the day, out of a dead-end airport is not a good idea.
  • Obvious Point #2 Putting any trust in the airline claim that said airport is “within 30 minute reach of central London” is even less of a good idea.
  • Obvious Point #3 Not factoring in a heavy Murphy coefficient when calculating the estimated time required by the journey to the airport, is a downright asinine idea.

Anyway, you get the picture…

This is the first time I miss a plane. ever. Well, except for last year, when I misread the day on my ticket and missed my plane by a full 24 hours.

This one was the first I could actually hear taking off from my arriving shuttle bus…

Picture pink_phone.jpg Just when I thought Tokyo might be an expensive choice of a city to live in, all I need to do is go back to good ole blighty to realize that 800 yens is a cheap price for a drink compared to the 10 quids you’ll have to cough up at your average semi-hip London tavern. And the worst part is not the price, it’s the sudden and sad realization that I don’t care so much about mindlessly spending in a day what I used to live on for a month less than ten years ago, in the same city.

Granted, that warehouse we occupied was mostly… “rent-optional”. and candles do not make for high utility bills…

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Keitai Picture South is the way to go… good riddance Parisian clouds, Bonjour Mediterranean sun!

Getting there was something else…

Suffice it to say that, a close second behind French universities in terms of administrative bondage and institutionalized pointlessness, comes the French national railway company (SNCF).

Those who know both may start suspecting that I only do all this because I enjoy pain and suffering. Which might be true, though I’d rather it be mixed with a fair amount of sensuality, leather and eye-pleasing nakedness, certainly not inflicted by a bunch of middle aged counter zombies wearing faded green suits and stern faces. Or worse yet, involving getting whipped into submission by an army of cold faceless iron machines supposed to be spitting our tickets for a train departing exactly 4 minutes and 30 seconds later.

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Keitai Picture I am told that, were I to leave this page untouched for more than a few days, all you ritalin kids, invested with the attention span of your average lab rhesus monkey, would leave this oasis of hipness and insanely cool writing for the next happening spot in the blogosphere, expunging it from your bookmarks without ever looking back, you ungrateful sons of a jackal (I am also told that it’s bad manner to refer to your readers as the progeny of a desert carrion-eating pest, but I assume that, if you have been voluntarily subjecting yourself to my laborious grammar and approximative metaphors so far, you are of the masochistic kind, so I guess that makes it ok).

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The best sandwich place in Paris is called Cosi. Actually, the best sandwich place in the world is most likely still Cosi. An awesome little joint that also happens to be right downstairs from where I stay (which is also where I used to live back in student days). They serve outstanding combinations of fresh ingredients stuffed in a kind of pizza bread, made in their own oven right in front of you. If you decide to eat it on the spot, a charming room upstairs will enhance your gustative experience with tasty local arts on display and Italian opera in the background.
Cosi is the only sandwich joint where you would consider bringing a romantic date.

But Paris, and in particular my local dwelling of predilection, the Latin Quarter, is just so filled with sandwich places that you could easily go a whole year eating all your lunches out and never at the same place (without spending astronomical amounts).

Yesterday, I spotted a new sandwich place down the street and can only venture that it is somewhat of a franchise (albeit a rather small one), from that “made in the same marketing mold”-look that seemed to run through the whole decoration (signs, furniture etc).

Nil’s, the Scandinavian Sandwich, offers, you guessed it, “Scandinavian Sandwiches”, Danish to be more precise.

You might be wondering what a Danish sandwich is made of and whether it really deserves its own dedicated eatery. I was. So I went in and asked the ostensibly not-Danish clerk if I could have one. All the sandwiches had nice little labels in front of them, informing you on their nom-de-sandwich (scandinavian-sounding words that made the place look like the culinary equivalent to an Ikea catalog) along with the main exotic ingredients they contained.

As you would expect (or not), fish was heavily represented, but not the only option, far from it, and not the strangest one.
Since they were straight out of baby-seal-mayonaise on rye, I had to settle for their very special: “Smoked Lapon Reindeer with Potatoes on Polar Bread” (see picture above).

The skinny?
it’s not half-bad, although honestly, reindeer won’t be replacing bacon or ham any day soon… but it sure makes for great sandwich descriptions…

PS: Selina, if you are reading this: I’m just kidding of course, the meat-looking ingredient you see above is just a strikingly similar meat substitute that they make in Denmark using only free-range cruelty-free organic polar tofu.

Update: Regarding Cosi, Scott (who was also a big Cosi fan, back when we were neighbours both living upstairs from that place) once told me he had run into a “Cosi” in NYC that looked strikingly similar to the one we both knew in Paris and that seemed to be part of a franchise. Drew (the owner) confirmed that indeed Cosi was now a franchise in the US… though he was not really involved (except I guess, for selling the rights), and if I remember correctly, Scott was not all that impressed by the US version.
Incidentally, here is the address of the one and only French one: 54, rue de Seine (VIe arrondissement), at the corner of rue de Buci… Enjoy!

The only downside to my tiny studio under the roof is that I got to go two floors down in the morning to get my shower in my cousin’s apartment.

The upside, which entirely makes up for it, is that I have direct roof access (just got to step outside my window).

Hanging on the roofs seems to be one of my favorite activities when in Paris…

Unlike Tokyo or SF, European cities like Paris offer lotsa possibilities when you get on the roof of an old building: you can pretty much make your way around the whole block and sometimes farther if you are feeling very adventurous (and discreet, as, needless to say, the local police does not see these urban acrobatics with a keen eye).

Of course, the times where you end up doing some climbing around are usually the times were you probably should not be doing it (like, after coming back with some friends from a night out drinking), but catching a summer sunrise on the roof in Paris is definitely film material.

Remember, that homeless painter I mentioned in one of my entries, last summer?

He used to sleep on or under his own canvases under Sarah’s window in Paris. Any cynical mind might have quickly pointed he was shooting for the Jean-Michel Basquiat theme. Whether wittingly or not. It had definitely not escaped the notice of hordes of bobos who now inhabits this neo-trendy chic neighbourhood: every other day, you could see neatly dressed young chaps congressing with the artist around a bottle of wine or a flask of whisky.

When I popped by in September, he was nowhere to be seen in the street and we simply assumed he’d been set-up in a fancy loft by one of his protector and on his way to become world-famous.

That was somewhat accurate, as it turns out he was the object of a few articles and documentaries on French TV around this time and even got an article in the Independent (free transcription here).

I learnt about all this in the last issue of Technikart my roommate brought home. But the article also mentioned that Joseph had recently died in a Paris hospital (possibly some liver disease or something else related to his insanely high daily consumption of alcohol)…

I bet all the two-bit modern-art snobs who rushed on the “down-and-out genius” wagon as soon as they smelled the possibility to cash in are jubilant: with our modern-time Basquiat dead, the legend is likely to thrive and the prices of all these paintings they traded for bottle of cheap whisky will soar to high heaven, at least for as long as the media hype lasts.

R.I.P. Mr. Joseph the Painter