Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We Said "Send Cash," Not "Send Ash."

Alice and I have been in Paris since last Thursday. We landed at 6AM and the volcano shut down airspace at noon. The question now is whether we can get out this week.

We are staying at the Citadines Hotel in Quai des Grands Augustins, literally right across the street from where Jacques de Molay was burned at the stake 696 years ago. If we were in a front room, we would have had a better view of it than Philippe IV. This is the biggest room I have ever stayed in in Europe. It is literally bigger than my first house. Don't know how we swung this, although the volcano might have had something to do with it. Citadines is a chain that features mini-apartments, complete with kitchens, so every meal doesn't have to be three hours long and require a permission slip from your banker. But this room and location, at the corner of the Seine, the Pont Neuf, and Rue Dauphine, is the greatest. Notre Dame is just down the street, and we back up to the rockin' St. Germain des Pres neighborhood.

Interestingly, the grocery store we walk to on Rue de Buci is literally right across the street from the address where the first Masonic lodge in Paris met (Saint-Thomas au Louis d'Argent, in 1732). By 1753, there were 200 lodges in France, of which 22 were in Paris.

The building from the 1700s is gone now, and 20 rue de Buci is an apartment building with a Hagen Daz store in the ground floor, but there is a five-ponted blazing star in the 19th century facade to mark its location to those who know what to look for.


According to Guide du Paris Maçonnique by Raphaël Aurillac:

The original building was owned by the [famous Parisian] caterer Nicolas Alexis Landelle, well known in his time for quality of food he attentively created. After each meeting, the members of the lodge assembled for their banquet ritual under the auspicious of brother Landelle. A book of St. Victor Guillemain (unearthed by Peter Mariel) described the ritual of the fraternal agape in force at the time: The first toast was to the health of the King, the second to the Venerable (Worshipful) Master, and others to the visitors and brethren of the lodge.

Paris is a madhouse with all of these stranded tourists who can't get out by plane because of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano. According to Wikipedia, Eyjafjallajökull is pronounced ɛɪjaˌfjatlaˌjœːkʏtl. THAT was of enormous help. Hence why newscasters can only seem to refer to "the Iceland volcano," which sounds more like a boxer from Reykjavík, instead of a mindlessly destructive force of nature that has brought 7 million travelers to a complete standstill. Iceland applied for membership in the European Union in 2009. I think they should be denied over this whole Eyjafjallajökull volcano business. You don't see Greece causing these kinds of problems.

Restaurants in Blvd. St Germaine are always crammed wall to wall anyway, but last Saturday night was packed everywhere. We grabbed an empty seat at the Twickenham pub just because we were tired of walking. Why wouldn't I guess that beef at a brasserie with an English name would be boiled? When we got back to our room, there was a nightclub in the building next to our room with a beat that sounded like the last flat tire I had, punctuated by screams of American college girls after their first shots of Jägermeister. Ah, April in Paris. At least the weather has been perfect.


In reality, we are here researching for Alice's latest book, which takes place in Napoleonic France. Yesterday, we went out into what was once the "countryside" and visited the chateau Malmaison, the Empress Josephine's country estate (She was a Freemason, by the way, in the Maconnerie d'Adoption's Loge Les Francs Chevaliers). It features incredible antiquities, paintings, and mementos of Napoleon's Egypt campaign. Not massive like Versailles, but much smaller and more intimate, with some rooms designed to look like the interior of Old Boney's expedition tents.

As you stroll through the house, you wander from room to room, and suddenly you turn a corner into an alcove, and they have this old thing just hanging there.




Dinner last night was at the famed Brasserie Lipp, with the same waiter we had a dozen years ago. Things never change there. Alice can swear up and down she is Swiss. She gobbled down sauerkraut and four kinds of pork in her charcuterie just a little too robustly to deny the German in her veins.

Paris airports theoretically opened partially today. Our official flight out is Thursday, but Delta has had not updated info on its website since Saturday morning. And a new ash cloud has spouted with more coming our way. So we could head for the airport Thursday morning, but be right back in our room that afternoon. Plan B is for another 13 American tourists in the hotel to join us and we all go in together to rent a container and go by ship. In that case, we'll be home in three months.

It just makes you want to shout, "ɛɪjaˌfjatlaˌjœːkʏtl!"

1 comment:

Mark Koltko-Rivera said...

This reads like a 'Letter from Paris' in the "Talk of the Town" section of The New Yorker (a deep compliment).

Glad to see you are up and about. Do remember to punch holes in the container for air. (Tell your container-mates: in the top of the container, please.)

My best regards to Lady Alice (who should spear you with a fork, of course).

Be well. Safe home. And if you get any rumors in Paris about the location of the NYC Golden Dawn temple ca. 1900 -- call collect.