Johnny Hallyday

Johnny Hallyday is said to be the most famous rock and roll star that nobody in the United States knows. I certainly didn’t know of him until I started learning about all things French. In Europe, especially France, Johnny was rock and roll. He brought it to France and performed all his life.

Johnny died December 6, 2017. His life has been eulogized. For me, especially poignant is what Carla Bruni wrote. See as published by The Gardian.

When Jan and I were walking around Paris last weekend, I saw an exposition about Johnny advertised. This weekend I went to Galerie Joseph to see it.

There were many photographs from all stages of Johnny’s life. This included his early years, his family (such as it was — his father left as soon as he was born), his trips, his concerts. There was a display of a number of his stage costumes. Many were body suits like Elvis wore.

He enjoyed motorcycles and cars. Here are some pictures.

Above is an older Harley-Davidson, but still in good shape. Below is a much newer Harley.

The Triumph below is very like the TR-3B I had in high school and TR-250 Jan and I had when we first got married.

And, as a finale, there is still custom car. At least I think it is custom; I have never seen anything like it. It is certainly customized with Johnny’s signature prominently on it.

Lego progress…

I have done a page or two in the first (or three) manuals most days since my birthday. I reached the halfway point in that first manual.

As you can see, it is still pretty basic. But, it is quite colorful and fun.

We have an outside terrace with tables, chairs, flowers, a border fence. We have interior tables with lamps. The kitchen has a sink, cabinets with (operating) drawers, an oven (that opens). There’s a turkey, dishes, glasses, a tarte. There’s even a broom — it is being held upright right by the kitchen’s back door.

Yes, I am enjoying having something to do as a break at work.

Birthday present

On my 70th birthday, I extravagantly bought myself a birthday present. I bought it from “the LEGO Shop” (, changing the locale to France and having it shipped to my French office.

I expect it will take my a long time to assemble. The assembly booklet is actually three separate booklets — not for building variations, but just to complete the entire kit.

It is quite detailed. I will try to set aside a few minutes in most days at the office to do a step in the assembly.

When it is finished, it will eventually go to whatever apartment I get on a long term basis. But, for now, it will live in the office.

I expect I will do some update posts during construction…

Birthday dinner

Yesterday, on my birthday, August 28, I was invited by my colleague, David Thach, to dinner at his apartment. I, of course, accepted.

David and I worked in the office until about 18h30 and then closed up and walked to his apartment. It is about a 20 minute walk if one walks at a brisk pace as David does. On the way, I bought some flowers, alstroemeria, as a thanks-for-inviting-me gift.

I met David’s wife, Mia Sakamoto, and his two children: Emma (aged 7) and Hugo (aged 5). David met Mia in Seattle, WA, when they were both foreign exchange students. They managed a long distance relationship for 3+ years until David finished university in Paris and got a job in, and moved to, Japan. They have been in Paris for a little over 2 years now after David took a job with our company, SAS Fermat.

We had a wonderful dinner. Mia cooks largely in a Japanese style; it helps her to live comfortably in France. We had rice with some (raw, I believe) fish, egg, and roe on it. Lightly cooked pieces of pork with bean sprouts. Green beans with sesame seeds. And a soup. It was quite a repast. My usual dinner, prepared by myself, is much more modest. There was plenty for all. Emma always wanted extra roe on top of her servings of rice.

After dinner, a bowl of cantaloupe was bought out and tea was being made. But, the surprise was a birthday cake for me!

It was a cheesecake-like confection from a local bakery. Strawberries in it and both raspberries and strawberries on top of the strawberry-flavored fondant topping layer. And, three candles. Emma, Hugo, and I got to blow out the candles together.

Such formalities done, Emma brought out the Connect-4 game. I did not play to lose, but am no good at strategy or games and Emma did win. She got me into one of those places where you have to block one set, but that enables connecting another set.

She put that away and came back with a card game to play, but it was late and I needed to get to the Metro and to my apartment. That put Emma into a dejected state as I had not played enough games yet.

David, Emma, and I walked the 2+ blocks to the closest Metro station. Emma immediately put her hand in mine and thus we walked for the entire journey.

It is a great family and I had a great birthday dinner.

Helmets, etc.

Everyday I walk to/from the Metro and my apartment as well as my office. I have been observing people riding motorcycles, motor-scooters (like Vespas), and bicycles. There are lots of cars, but lots of these smaller vehicles as well.

I would say the vast majority of motorcycle/motor-scooter riders wear helmets. But, it is not 100%. I do not know if France has a law about helmets.

I would also say the vast majority of bicycle riders do not wear helmets. Again, it is not 100%. There is the occasional cyclist with a helmet, but it is clearly the exception.

There are separate bicycle lanes on some of the larger sidewalks, but most of the bicycle traffic is in the street with everything else. Of course, it is the middle of a large city and it is never high speed. But, the ethic of bicycle helmets has just not occurred here.

One anecdote — I was walking along an avenue near my apartment when I saw a motorcycle rider have to stop in an intersection to be able to turn left. As it was a wait, their left foot came down to stabilize the cycle. I only saw it in profile, but the leg ended in a stiletto high heel. I do not think I’ve ever seen someone riding in stilettos. She must have been riding to work.


For me, being alone means eating simply. While I am not afraid to cook, being able to put something together from the refrigerator, with maybe some microwave use, is perfect. I am buying bread about every other day, but most shopping is once or twice a week.

My first course tonight was a bowl of frozen “garden peas” (the package actually said that in English) that I warned up in the microwave.

Then my main course is the selection above. That is a terrine of canard, a wedge of Camembert, and some pieces of bread. The drink is hot tea. I bought the terrine at the Saturday outdoor market. The Camembert was from a big store (Monoprix). The bread was from the boulangerie just down the street, left around the corner, and go a half block.

And, yes, you can see the clutter on the living room table.

Weekends permit wandering…

I am busy each weekday. I leave my (temporary) apartment between 08h30 and 09h00 to go to the Metro. That’s a short walk. Then a change of lines and a longer walk to the office. I get back between 18h00 and 19h00, reversing my route. It does not leave much time for wandering.

But, this is the weekend. I took the Metro to Île de la Cité to look at the Notre Dame area again. There’s an apartment there that looks interesting and I wanted to re-look at the neighborhood.

Then I indulged myself and took the Metro to the Louvre. I love the statuary rooms. There are two, across from each other, in the Richelieu wing.

This is the more westerly one. There are always people around, but there are benches to sit on. I like the light, airiness, space. Being able to just sit there in one of my personal indulgences. Did I see anything else in this museum so crammed with things? No. Just spent some time enjoying myself.

Note: I enabled Louvre visits like this by becoming one of the Amis du Louvre. It gets you a year-long pass. I think I will visit enough times throughout the year.

A name on the door …

This is the door into Bureau 17 at Le Trèfle Marcel Sembat. That is a coworking space in Boulogne-Billancourt, France. Boulogne-Billancourt is a suburb of Paris. It is just south of the Bois du Boulogne. Marcel Sembat is the closest Metro stop.

The names on the door have been updated to include me as well as my colleague, David Thach. Our company is SAS Fermat, just Fermat for short.

This is the interior. You are looking at the space from the door and my side. That’s my notebook, glasses, tissues, umbrella, water glass, etc. David is the other side.

We do have our own A/C unit in the ceiling. You can see the remote control on the desk.

The space is 30 to 45 minutes from my temporary apartment, which is closest to Metro stop Raspail.

Back again…

The post just preceding this is from June, 2017, describing my visit to Bretagne. What happened in the interim? Well, it is a long story. I will tell it in parts, probably jumping around in time.

I was in Paris until late June, 2017, but things got quite hectic. My wife, Jan, visited, flying into London to start, where I met her. We then both came to Paris on the EuroStar. Also visiting was Jan’s sister, Joyce. And our son, Dylan. And, a very good friend, Madge. Much goings on. No time for posting. I’ll try to summarize some of it if I can…

Then came the unexpected phone call from someone I had not spoken to for 25+ years. He asked how retirement was. I said great. He said, “want to do something else?” To make it short, I have joined a French startup company, SAS Fermat, based here in Paris. And, I will live and work in Paris for about three years. Jan will continue to be in Acton, MA, but we have ten cross-Atlantic trips a year planned to keep fully in touch.

I’m looking for a long term lease for an apartment. When I get that, I will publish the address in this blog.

Bretagne – Jour 3 – Arzon

The only long drive on my final day in Bretagne was back up to Gare de Vannes at the day’s conclusion. On the other hand, a long boat ride did happen.

First we had a breakfast similar to the previous day. Those homemade jams are certainly good.

Then we did some R & R as we waited for the tide to be correct. You will remember that the tide passes into and out of the Golfe du Morbihan through a 1 km wide gap. And, all navigation is much easier when the tide is high.

We did not have to wait a long time. It is a quick walk to the port where their boat is kept. They opened up the boat and we set off.

First was out of Port Crouesty which means out into the Atlantic. But then immediately around to Port Navalo and through the mouth of the Golfe du Morbihan. Then we wound through some island towards the main area of the Golfe.

We went south of Île aux Moines, the largest island in the Golfe. Then north between Île aux Moines and Île d’Arz, the second largest island. This takes us up towards Arradon, which is on the mainland.

Just shy of Arradon, we go west to go between the mainland and Île aux Moines. The takes us back to the group of islands just inside the mouth of the Golfe. Through those islands and then out by Port Navalo. Finally around southeast to Port Crouesty and back into harbor.

It does not take long to describe, but it took a while in the boat. Fortunately, I was lent a hat as there were no clouds and the sun was shining brightly. And, while the temperature was not cool, there is always a breeze when moving in a boat. So, I got sun on my arms and in my face, but not enough to burn me thanks to the hat.

Back at the house, we have our lunch. We started with an apéro of a small glass of Port with some cut up cantaloupe. Very refreshing.

Next was huîtres (oysters) freshly bought and shucked (by Jean-Yves). Colette made a mignonette sauce to accompany them. I must have had eight or more.

Then we had langoustines. We tried some translations, but most did not really say anything. A French definition is petit crustacé dont la chair a bon goût. We might say prawns. In any event, Jean-Yves had boiled them in Court Bouillon, vegetable flavored broth. Then he made some mayonnaise which had quite a lot of mustard in it. He demonstrated opening them and pulling out the tail. I did OK, but he could not help himself to clean up a handful for me as I was so slow. Dipped in the mayonnaise they are very good. And, of course, they were bought on the day they were cooked. It is nice to be on the Atlantic in a port town.

Then the salad and fromage course. Same three cheeses as before. No problem with that! Everyone switched to red wine at this point; my hosts drank white for the seafood, of course.

The ending was fraises (strawberries). We ate outside their living room under an awning. What a nice pleasant meal.

Now for adventure. We drove, in Arzon, to Pointe du Petit Mont. This is yet another neolithic site. It is the top of a hill right by the ocean. You can clearly see all around in every direction.

Some 6,000 or so years ago, people built the stone mound at the hill’s top. It was enhanced in a couple of phases over a couple thousand years to be what it is today.

There were three burial chambers, but one has been destroyed. During WWII a concrete bunker was built inside the mound. I guess it was as strategic in the 1940s as 6,000 years ago. The bunker was dug and then concrete poured. This digging totally destroyed one of the burial chambers.

Another burial chamber is accessible only from the concrete bunker. It is low and has carved stones as the uprights and roof.

A third chamber is accessible from the outside. The topmost picture is this chamber’s entrance. This is also a low inward tunnel and then a bigger chamber. And also carved with symbols, feet, hands, etc.

The above shows the view to the right of the outside-accessible chamber.

This is around the mound showing its three tiers.

I continue to be amazed by the number of neolithic / megalithic artifacts in this region. Many of the islands in the Golfe du Morbihan had various ruins as well.

One sign explaining the region helped me understand a number of things. It showed the water level of the Golfe du Morbihan over the ages. Long ago, when people started the Petit Mont, most of what is now the Golfe was rolling fields. It was rising water levels that made it a gulf with islands. So, all of the ruins were not on isolated islands, but part of a continuous landscape. Constant was the height of where the Petit Mont is; it had an overview of all of the landscape.

Also, Vannes was not a port then. It was well inland. But, the river through Auray has always been there and Auray was a port even way back then. That explains Auray’s very old sea-oriented outlook. Vannes is a relative newcomer.

We had parked and walked up to the Petit Mont. We took a different trail down to the mouth of the Port Crouesty, by a small chapel, and then back to the car.

Next stop was a small and new park in Arzon. They are still building it and it is not fully grassed in as yet. They have put in exercise stations for people to use.

Finally, we went to Moulin de Pen Castel. There is a small bay off of the Golfe that has been closed off with a dam, a small dam serving as a roadway as well. Since there are tides, there is almost always a current across the dam. This mill used the current to drive a wheel to drive the milling stones.

After being home for a while, we took the loop up to Gare de Vannes for my TGV back to Paris. It was nicely on time and I said my goodbyes, boarded, and headed for Paris.

The same trick occurred in Rennes. They coupled the trains from Brest and Quimper together for the remainder of the journey to Paris Montparnasse.