Jeremy's Weblog

I recently graduated from Harvard Law School. This is my weblog. It tries to be funny. E-mail me if you like it. For an index of what's lurking in the archives, sorted by category, click here.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Today I went with my cousins on a day trip to Beaune, a small town about two hours outside of Paris that makes wine but not traffic signals. We got up at 6 AM to get to the Metro before 7 and to the fast train for out of town trips (3 letters -- stands for something -- but I can't remember. I'm tempted to go for the easy joke and call it the STD, but I won't. I'll just call it the train). So we got to Beaune, after a transfer in Dijon, where the train station sold mustard in a rainbow of colors. Pink mustard (red wine), white mustard (white wine), and green mustard (mold). The station also had a magazine shop with an "international" section. For some reason, Time and Premiere are the 2 American magazines they carried. The Premiere sales rep should get a raise. I bought neither mustard nor a magazine.

Beaune's train station is an unpleasant 15 minute walk from the town, which is actually surprisingly nice. There were a whole bunch of nice gourmet food stores, patisseries, charcuteries, gourmanderies, and stores that sell scarves (neckwooleries). Scarves are big in France. There was also an odd looking cafe that said "Non-Stop Restaurant." They were right. No one stopped. It was empty.

We went first to a hospital from the 16th century that's been turned into a museum. It was part of Beaune's Museum Trifecta, all available for one price, ostensibly to get you to forget that you hate museums and con you into spending all day wandering around looking at art. The hospital museum was somewhat interesting. Their brochure was offered in 10 languages, including Japanese and Norwegian -- I'm not sure why they were more accommodating in that way than anything I've seen in Paris, but whatever. The museum had restored the hospital's main room, which was a room full of fancy beds, basically -- the most a doctor could do in the 16th century was watch you die, I imagine. And they had on display all sorts of crude medical instruments from the past 5 centuries. Syringes, proto-stethoscopes, tooth-pullers, do-it-yourself-enema-instruments (really), hatchets, toothpick-looking things, blood-letting pans, and, of course, the most important medical tool back then, coffins. One of the rooms had mannequins of nurses caring for patients. This is where Paris is different from America. In America, there would have been real women dressed up as nurses from the 16th century, in period costume, churning butter and playing with leeches. But here all we got were big dolls. No fair.

Onto the art museum, where I once again was reminded I don't like art museums. The exhibit on display was all sorts of work by some guy I never heard of, mostly where he drew men and women but replaced the women's faces with funnels or cabbage or other stuff like that. My cousins thought the paintings were depressing. I thought he was trying to preach tolerance -- I love you even though your face is made of cabbage. I don't know.

The third museum was the wine museum, which featured a fascinating gallery of hoes and spades used in the fields. The hospital museum was really carrying the rest of the 3-pack. The art and wine museums were simply dreadful. At least the hospital museum let me use the word enema in context.

The most interesting part of the day was lunch. I tried snails for the first time. Honestly, I was disappointed. They're not strange enough. They taste like mussels or clams or any of the other stuff you might think they'd taste like. Same texture and everything. They sound like they ought to be weird and unusual and scary. But they're not. At least oysters are slimy and taste like ocean. They're interesting. But snails weren't really. I didn't mind them... but they're nothing to get excited about. Another cool part about lunch was that I didn't order dessert, but, for the second or third time in a restaurant here, they give you some small sweets anyway when they bring the bill. It is impossible to undereat here. Every meal is huge and good. Food on the street is delicious. Crepes mostly. Anything in any bakery -- mini quiche, any pastry, any sandwich -- is delicious. I can spend $5 and get a great lunch including dessert by eating things from street vendors and pastry shops. Awesome.

On the train on the way back, there was a little kid sitting behind me, probably 2 years old or so. Along with the wooden tray at every seat on the train, he had a glass baby food jar and a metal spoon. And he knew how to use them. I actually didn't mind the racket all that much -- his mother tried to quiet him down but couldn't, and chose not to take the jar and spoon away from him for whatever reason -- but the people around me got more and more annoyed. Which was fun to watch. I have a pretty high tolerance for children doing things that children do, actually. I mind much more when adults do things of which they ought to know better. But that's neither here nor there.

Another book recommendation -- Adam Gopnik's Paris to the Moon, a set of essays originally in the New Yorker about the author, an American, moving to Paris for 5 years with his wife and young son. Great writing. A lovely read. You'll wish you lived in Paris, had a young son, and wrote for the New Yorker. Really. All three. I promise.