Europe in review

Random crap that comes to mind

Leaving Chicago, Arriving in France

I love this place Chez Paul. I do not know what possessed me to order a hamburger. I don’t even eat them in restaurants in the US. Although possibly our adorable waitress who spoke perfect English inspired me. She did her semester abroad in…wait for it…Milwaukee!!! The hamburger came essentially raw, topped with essentially raw bacon on top and ESSENTIALLY RAW SALMON on the bottom, I discovered this after I’d eaten a few bites of it. I removed the bacon and salmon and choked down another bite or two. This was the only food that The Royal Indian Mounted Food Police and I did not share. I got sick after this. I’ll spare you the details but it went on and on and on and on. Possibly this is why I did not gain weight in Paris. I can tell you the location of every toilet between the Bastille and le Place de la Concorde.

This is the statue at the top of the Bastille a block or two from Chez Paul where this copy of lovely fellow, The Spirit of Freedom (indeed!), graced the counter above our table.

Fondation Louis Vuitton was the site of a spectacular exhibition of Impressionist paintings owned by the insanely wealthy Mozorov family in Russia. The insurance for this show cost $1,000,000,000. Seriously. The collection was amazing, chock-a-block (an expression I feel is not used as often as it ought to be) with stuff like this.

Unfortunately the reality of it was mostly this.

What I thought was truly amazing was the display of the process of the design and construction of this SPECTACULAR Frank Gehry building, if I can even call it that, structure, maybe. On the left is the maquette he presented to the design committee. It looks like someone emptied out their wastebasket after an upscale birthday party.

We took a brief detour to the fabulously glorious city of Bordeaux.

My view the entire way back to Paris on the train.

Back in Paris we had dinner, a pre-nuptial extravaganza at Le Train Bleu the glorious Belle Epoch restaurant in the Gare de Lyon. I had eaten there 10 years ago and while I loved the place, I recalled the food as iffy. The place is stunning, the food and service less so. We don’t recall exactly what the amuse bouche was but I don’t think my bouche was very amused by it. Our saltless food was delivered and we never saw the waiter again. Ever. I had lime curried monkfish—salt free, in tapioca. This is not a good idea, tapioca, in case you’re planning a menu like that. The dessert was good, if you like that sort of thing. It’s worth a trip to the bar. Don’t eat there. Bring your own salt shaker if you do. And for god’s sake, skip the tapioca.

One exciting thing I discovered at Le Train Bleu was that in the glorious mural on the ceiling was Hyéres, the town where I had my apartment. It was the termination of the Train Bleu line and a favorite resort area of the jet set, I suppose you’d call them train set, of the time.

Some puzzlements in Germany

Pflegeleicht, indeed. You figure it out if you’re so smart.

Copenhagen has a kind of peace that is not found in Paris or Berlin.

Germany, hither and tither

We met most days at Galeries Lafayette near Brandenburger Tor after work (He worked, I swanned about) for drinks in their wine bar with the unpleasant German bartender. Really I don’t know why we went there, you needed a flare to get his attention.

Last day. This is the spectacular National art gallery. The architect, Mies van der Rohe was in his 90s at the time. Apparently the largest collection of contemporary art in the world. Surprising since not that long ago they were burning contemporary art.

Bye bye Germany, bye bye husband

Mexican hot dogs in Copenhagen

In Scandinavia it is completely normal and utterly common for people to leave their babies in elaborate strollers outside of venues—stores, bars, restaurants. It seems insane to us Americans, there it really is normal. This baby was in a stroller sleeping outside—and it was cold—during our entire meal.

We were in what was a sort of food court. The part we were in was supposedly Mexican. On the menu were many kinds of hot dogs. I think of hot dogs as quintessentially American, like US American not Mexican American. I’m not quibbling. It’s totally fine with me and I was intrigued, I wanted them. We shared a BBQ empanada which now that I think about it doesn’t seem very Mexican either. And then we shared “hot dogs.”

The sausage itself was being made right there, right then. It turned out to be more bratwurst than hot dog, OK, not at all hot dog. And the toppings were not even vaguely hot doggish. But they were delicious. I just wish that baby hadn’t been abandoned there. I’m sure it was fine but, you know, being US American, it seemed so wrong.

Some other wedding tidbits

Wedding fashion: I’m not so much a fan of the gay rainbow thing but for our wedding I bought this pair of underwear and wore it secretly without my future husband knowing. It didn’t quite have the impact I’d wanted when he discovered it later. “Why are you wearing those?” He asked in a completely dispassionate way. Anyway, I tried.

A number of people have asked in oblique ways about the scarves while, I am sure, actually thinking “oh brother look at those two knobs being all European” and well, yes. But it was very cold and we did not have overcoats. It was really not about being fops.

Wedding cake: October 13th is also my sister Patty’s birthday, she turned Medicare age so celebration was in order too. My sister Mary K made a duel purpose cake. Wedding on one side, birthday on the other. My sisters and their respective spouses then sang and sent a video. It was very moving, even for me, someone not easily moved, I choked up. I was sad they weren’t there but this gesture was something very special and way out of the ordinary which sort of sums up the whole deal.

Wedding Beers: I know champagne is the usual but I prefer beer, I’m not a champagne kinda guy, despite what the scarf may suggest. We stopped for the wedding lunch in some small, absolutely charming Danish place. The bread came with butter and a little pot of lard. We did not eat that. The paintings on the wall by a local artist of Nordic coast lines were fantastic. Very Matisse like. The photographs do not do the place or the paintings justice.

Luck and money: We were married on the 13th and stayed on the 13th floor of the hotel. Looking forward to that first Friday the 13th anniversary. Ashish’s colleagues made a small celebration for him in his office. They gave him some sort of decorative christmas tree ornament-like made out of money. These are actual useable euros so, starting out lucky.

Rehearsal dinner: We didn’t really have all that much to rehearse. I’m not overly given to making public spectacles of myself anyway. In fact, we didn’t even discuss the impending event. It was a Thai restaurant filled with Thai people. They were more interesting to talk about. The food was absolutely fantastic. Except not that radish flowery thing, which I ate, it was dry and woody.

Wedding dinner: After our wedding lunch we went to the Danish history museum which was essentially impossible to comprehend and filled with billions of tiny bits and pieces of pottery, rusting weaponry and other oddments. That night we had our wedding dinner at an Italian restaurant that was apparently locally sourced, artisanal and, you know, free range and what not. Our appetizer was house-made burrata and sautéed “scavenged” greens. On the one hand I appreciate that but on the other I was put in mind of the weeds growing in between the sidewalk slabs. The greens (weeds) were not exactly toothsome and I seem to think had a faint taste of, well, sidewalk.

So Copenhagen

After 13+ years, the Royal Indian Mounted Police and I decided to get married. We had attempted this in Oslo 6 years ago but the official paperwork got gombolixed up and we missed a deadline, yeah, so bummer. And would have done so before now but COVID and other annoyances intervened. Denmark is more or less the Las Vegas of the EU in that they have fewer hoops, I mean requirements, to jump though. To get married in Germany where he currently lives, I’d have had to been a resident for 180 days and attend marriage counseling. (which isn’t such a bad idea) But well, Copenhagen is an hour away.

Many people were concerned that we would be lonely or something would be missing but we had each other and that was enough. I can say it would have been better with loved ones around but it was a lovely day, if somewhat cold (hence the scarves). The city hall was really charming, the fully pregnant registrar was adorable. And it was just fine. And it turns out that not having other people there made us focus on each other. We had beers with our lunch in a lovely Danish restaurant and we danced to Joan Armatrading in our hotel room.

The one exception is that the photographer did not take our picture when we kissed and it wasn’t because he didn’t have time.

Jesus H Geist

We decided to go to some uber-cool, super expensive new hot spot the Copenhageners (I looked that up) are currentlly flocking to. Which is to say all Copenhageners under the age of 30 who have a lot of disposable income. I was easily 25 years older than the next oldest person there. Possibly this was because it was POURING rain (we walked) and in my experience people with sense (older people) stay home rather than go out to eat when it’s raining. At least they do in Milwaukee, or in any event, they did in the brief time I owned a restaurant and it either snowed or rained every day for a year and a half. But I digress. It was raining and I was the oldest person there, all other, older people having had the sense to stay home, or so I assume. But I was in Copenhagen visiting and didn’t really have a home to stay at. And, hey, it’s a hot spot, in Copenhagen!

We went to Geist (rhymes with Christ). The restaurant, as you enter, is really, really dark, but you don’t notice that as you grope your way toward the host, so much as how incredibly loud it is. At least we thought it was loud until we were ushered to our stools at the bar, where we came to know what loud could actually mean. Not loud enough to make ears bleed but headed in that relative direction. And the music itself, I don’t know if this is a thing but it’s my second experience with it here in Scandinavia, it’s music you know, say, the BeeGees and Dusty Springfield, mixed to the same never-ending disco beat. Boz Scaggs, the Andrews Sisters, throw in freaking Mahalia Jackson, anything apparently goes.

The restaurant is an enormous bar which encircles the kitchen where you can watch, for instance, a sous chef (or something) tap paprika onto a large plate with one ravioli on it. It’s a “small plate’ restaurant but the plates were huge. The food was small. The ball of paprika was wrapped in a dishtowel and tapped onto the plate by means of percussing the ball on the back of the sous chef’s wrist over the plate. There was much hurried activity of that nature. Variously uniformed people rushing about adding this and that, elder flowers, a chive, to plates as they passed hither and tither.  

The food, though, was excellent, if difficult to photograph as you can see below. The absence of light combined with the pounding beat of the music made it hard to hold the phone still enough to take a focused picture. And there was also my discomfort at taking the pictures at all. While the Copenhageners politely seem to keep close counsel, I am sure they were all thinking who’s the geezer taking pictures with his phone? I was thinking that anyway.

The meal was superb, the fish, I forget what it was, covered with what appeared to be used band aids but were, in fact, mushroom raviolis, was wonderful. The beef tenderloin was perfect. There was also a lovely salad, pulled pork and some lightly sauteed spinach, all of which were great. 

In the end though, my advanced age (a panhandler in Oslo called me Grampa which I can inform you didn’t make me feel generously inclined) getting the better of me, we declined to have dessert. It was too much, the driving pulsing beat of Tiny Tim and The Oak Ridge Boys, and the need to squint in order to see what we were putting in our mouths. We fumbled our way out to the lobby—through the sea of umbrellas, found ours—and escaped out into the rain. The quiet, well lit rain.