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Vegetarian restaurants in Paris

quick review of Aquarius café: went for lunch. Tight-packed space, cranky waitress, confusing menu. We guessed on the food and it wasn't good, but it did end up being cheap. Our cashier spoke some English, and there was singing, but overall Not Recommended. Now for the good one:

La Victoire Suprême du Coeur was a little tricky to locate, since the side street it's on is not listed on most Paris maps. This website would have made it a lot easier, if I'd found it beforehand. It was a nice, open place painted in cool colors; the photos on the site don't do it justice. I requested English menus, which were provided. J ordered the vegetarian "chicken" and I got Seitan escalope w/ mushroom sauce.

I was glad the menus were printed in clear English, because when our food came, the resemblance to meat was remarkable. My escalope looked and tasted almost exactly like a fine cut of beef. J's "chicken," especially, was astounding. I've never come across anything like it. A hardcore vegan would undoubtedly be grossed out by the resemblance to real hunks of hen flesh. And it was 100% vegan to boot!

The desserts were equally good, but I had to cut my raving short for a long trip to the bathroom before we left. Sadly, something about that remarkably tasty food had an unsettling effect on my tummy. After I finally came out of there, I was a bit shocked by the size of the bill--apparently we misunderstood the pricing scheme--but it was easily worth every centime. That was our one expensive dinner in Paris, and we would go back in a heartbeat. La Victoire Suprême du Coeur! Best vegetarian restaurant EVER!

2003 Monmousseau Vouvray: SG Wine of the Month!

Maybe this will be a new feature on Sui Generis. Not everyone is into wine recommendations, but doing one a month seems reasonable to me. As always, let me know in the comments if you'd like to see more (or less) of this kind of thing. So, without further ado:

I'm no fancy-pants Dom Perignon-drinking wine snob, just a regular guy looking for bargain pours. I review wines that are good, cheap, and obtainable. After all, I drank some great wines in France, but I could write about them until I'm white in the face and you still wouldn't be able to buy them. So why should you care? Instead, this month's pick is a French wine that I bought at my neighborhood store right here in St. Paul, Minnesota. If it sounds good to you, then I hope you can track it down, too.

Monmousseau Vouvray is a blanc des blancs from the Touraine region (central Loire valley). Here's what you get for just $10: Cidery, sweet aroma. Lush, buttery flavor. Similar to several I've tried, except that where they tip over the edge with sticky-sweetness and are spoiled, this one goes just up to the zenith and then backs down again with a smooth finish. Perfectly balanced; never offensive.

This wine is fine on its own, but it was very complementary with the grilled shiitake mushrooms and rotini pasta that I made for dinner. Part of the reason that it blended so well might have been the fact that I used the wine in the (highly recommended!) sauce recipe. With food or without, this wine stands out as one of my favorite whites in some time.

Categories: wine

Paris: favorite places

My first post on the city was a bit cantankerous, but as I said, there were good times to be had in Paris. Here's a partial list of places that I enjoyed visiting and would recommend to anyone.

  • Shakespeare & Company: new & used English-language book seller. One shop sells mostly new stuff, and its neighbor stocks old, rare, first edition, &c. While we were there, the old and rare side of the store was closed up, and I didn't get a chance to browse inside. The "new" side had a good selection and a few (misplaced?) rare finds as well.
  • Musee d'Orsay: Best museum that we visited in Paris. Crowds were less insane than at the Louvre, and both quality and quantity of art works was vastly improved (I thought) over the Centre Pompidou. Add to that the gorgeous building that it's all housed in, and you've got a museum that's worth the price of admission.
  • Our apartment: No matter how great or crappy our day was, it was always fun coming back to our own place in the evening. I cannot recommend this route enough. If you stay at a hotel in Paris, you are missing out on the best part of the trip!
  • Monoprix: French grocery store chain where we shopped at least once a day. Fresh bread and pastries at the bakery, great selection of wines for me, and huge bottles of Orangina for J. Also an excellent store-brand tiramisu. Not a place worth seeking out, per se, but you probably won't need to; they're all over Paris.
  • La Victoire Supreme du Coeur: vegetarian restaurant with the best meat analog ever. For the full story on this place and another one that's worth a look, come back for tomorrow's post.

Fat Tire Bike Tours / Monet's gardens

We got lucky for one day in France and both got to do stuff we loved. We met early in a Paris train station with the group leader for Fat Tire Bike Tours (f/k/a Bullfrog Bikes) and took a train towards Normandy. The plan of the day was to pick up the bikes in Vernon, ride to a picnic spot, continue on to Monet's grave, gardens & house, poke around on foot for a few hours and then reverse.

The rain started during our train ride and continued for a few hours while we shopped in the Vernon market and claimed bikes from FTBT's fleet. Fat Tire is an apt name, since the cruiser-style 3-speed bikes float on huge balloony tires. The seats were ultra-comfortable, the frame weighed a ton, and the components were shiny and dialed-in. It was like riding on rails--you couldn't fall off one of these bikes if you tried. Or so I thought, until there was an immediate minor fiasco when a woman in our group pulled out into the road, saw a car, and freaked out. She fell over.

We lunched in a pretty park where Monet used to paint. Our tour leader supplied regional cheese and cider. The drizzling intensified, and we hid under a graffitied bridge to wait it out. Eventually, we had to go and took a nice rainy ride along a paved country bike trail up to Giverny. We saw the man's grave and extensive gardens (photo of the pond here). The walls of his house were covered in Japanese woodblock prints--a major inspiration for his impressionist work. I was delighted; J was hoping for more Monet.

After a few hours of touristing, we got back on the bikes and returned to town. This is where it got really ridiculous as people started walking their bikes. We are talking about giving up on a slow, easy ride with foolproof bicycles on flat ground and a dedicated two-lane bike trail. Those of us who enjoyed riding and wanted to catch our train back to Paris were dumbfounded. Why would you take a bike tour if you don't like riding bikes?

Our group leader handled this well and shepharded the slowpokes back to the stable. I felt like riding around for a few more kilometers, but it was time to go. The rain had cleared up when we arrived at the gardens, so we hung out on the train platform and talked with the leader about working for FTBT. Sounds like a fun and easy job, I was thinking about doing it myself some day, but I wouldn't have wanted to deal with our group. Moral: good times, Fat Tire recommended.

Categories: bicycles

Serenity preview

This movie rocks your socks. I give it 5,000 SGs. I don't aim to spoil anything here, but let's just say that fans of the show will adore the film, and even if you haven't seen the show it's still a great movie in its own right. The TV show was a good medium for introducing compelling characters and themes, and the big screen was a perfect venue to tie it all together in grand fashion. If you like sci-fi, I bet you will love this film. Go see it.

Paris bike culture

I read that "the French are very serious about cycling," but the Paris we visited did not match up with my preconceived notions. While we were there, I saw very few of what I would call "serious" cyclists (Lycra-clad riders on racing bikes with drop bars). On the contrary, the vast majority of bicycles around Paris were purely utilitarian.

The average bike had straight bars, basic pedals, a comfortable saddle, fenders and a rack. For some reason that I never grokked, many were "girl" bikes--partly explained by the fact that more women ride bikes, but lots of these bikes were being ridden by men.

Being a bike geek, I ogled every chained-up bicycle that we passed on the street and looked for trends and standouts. Not a single single-speed or fixed gear could be seen. And yet not a more suitable city could be imagined, since Paris is nigh entirely flat. One thing was for sure, though, these bikes got used. They were dirty and beat and old. As for brands, Peugeot was popular (as they were for cars and motorcycles), and "Decathlon" bicycles were ubiquitous as well.

We found a Decathlon store on or near the Champs-Elysees and went in to investigate. Sure enough, they sold and serviced a line of bikes along with tons of other sporting goods (think REI). I found a floor model "Vitamin," one that I'd seen plenty of and thought it looked pretty cool... being sold for 100 euros!* Had I been admiring the French equivalent of a Wal-Mart bike?

Not being able to speak or read French too well, I couldn't much tell. Suffice it to say that Parisians as a whole aren't some super-knowledgeable elite bicycling clique. They buy their bikes to use 'em, and considerations of weight or quality don't compete with low low prices. Just one more way that they're really just like us Americans.

Categories: bicycles

*121.11 U.S. dollars


Paris is like any other big city: they have crazy traffic, urban decay, beggars, pickpockets, buskers, scam artists, and homeless folk. It's dirty, noisy, crowded, smelly, and busy. It is important to understand this. Paris is not a utopia of laid-back lunches in cozy cafes and romantic sunset strolls along the Seine. But, like any other big city, it's got its charm if you are willing to search for it (and it mostly won't be where you expect).

We lived there more or less like unemployed locals for two weeks and had a great time. "Loved every minute" would be a lie. "Made the most of it" is better. My favorite days by far were our jaunts outside the city, and my France return trip plans do not include Paris whatsoever. Still, I'm glad we went. Here are some highlights of big-city livin'.

  • The Metro. When it wasn't too busy, we had fun riding the train system. It covers every corner of Paris and took us where we wanted to go every time we went out. Going without a car in this city would be easy (but all that traffic had to come from somewhere--out of town commuters, perhaps?)
  • Proximity to necessities. On a daily basis, we could have got by without using the Metro at all, simply browsing our neighborhood's cafes, restaurants, bakeries, groceries, laundrettes and the such. There was at least one of absolutely everything we needed within a few blocks' radius.
  • Apartment perks. Drinking a glass (or two) of wine on our balcony. Taking a hot bath at the end of a long day of walking. Cooking grilled-cheese sandwiches in our tiny kitchen corner. Those little details made us feel at home, and of course--thanks to J's big push to get us something that we could not do at home--our bedroom view of the Eiffel Tower.
  • Assortment. An endless procession of patisseries doesn't translate into an infinite selection of baked goods, but it does ensure at least some variety. If we didn't like the menu of one restaurant, we just tried our luck with the next one down the street. We never had to go more than a block or two before finding something we could both agree on.
  • Culture. Saved for last because it's obvious. Paris is packed with museums, cathedrals, parks, historic sites, and nifty architechture aplenty. The only drawbacks to the best tourist attractions were the half-mad packs of feral tourists. Ah, well, there's just no escaping other people.

Non-Paris post: SERENITY

Guess who's going to see a pre-screening of Serenity this week?

I had been hearing for a while about this TV show Firefly that might be up my alley, but never got around to checking it out. Then just the other day I saw over at Magic Cookie that bloggers get a shot at free tickets for the upcoming movie! Of course I signed up. Now that I'm going to see the movie that concludes the series, I thought it would be a good time to see what the show is all about. None of the rental stores around here seem to carry it, so I had no choice but to buy the complete season from Best Buy without having ever watched a single episode. Now, halfway through, I am totally stoked on Serenity. I'm supposed to tell everyone this stuff:

Joss Whedon, the Oscar® - and Emmy - nominated writer/director responsible for the worldwide television phenomena of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE, ANGEL and FIREFLY, now applies his trademark compassion and wit to a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future in his feature film directorial debut, Serenity. The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family –squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal.
I bet it is going to be sweet. You can read all about it here on Wednesday morning, or Tuesday night if it gets me too wound up to sleep and I write the post as soon as I get home from the theater. You can't take the sky from me.

Viva la France!

Hope y'all liked the photos. Now it's storytime!

France was awesome. We rented an apartment in Paris for two weeks, which is the way to go. Not too expensive, but we had our own place and a kitchen for making meals and whatnot to save money on eating out. Plus we could see the Eiffel Tower from our bedroom and drink wine on the balcony, so it fulfilled all our Paris dreams right there.

FRANCE FUN FACT: Wine is cheaper than soda.

I'll spend some time in subsequent posts talking about our day trips into Burgandy and Champagne. Those were my favorite parts of the vacation. We also took a bicycle tour up to Monet's house, gardens, and grave--the only biking I did for two weeks!--man, do I feel out of shape! It turns out that my buff cycling muscles are a different group from my flabby walking muscles, and we were both exhausted at the end of every day.

We walked a lot, but we also spent a lot of time riding trains: the Metro in Paris and the SNCF lines out into the country. SNCF can suck it!! We had a bad experience with them, but there's not much incentive for them to improve customer service, since as far as I know they've got a monopoly on rail travel heading out of Paris. Anyway, I like riding trains, so we had some good times. Oh, the AirFrance bus from the airport can suck it too.

Things that didn't suck: wine! food! the weather! some museums! Again, I'll dedicate some posts to those topics, especially the two vegetarian restaurants we visited. So, lots of content coming up. I'm also answering questions, so if you've got anything to ask, now is the time! The request line is open.

Winners Never Quit

Leaving the company is so in vogue now that our HR Director didn't bat an eye when I came into her office to resign today.

"I've got some bad news," I said.
"Oh, you're resigning. When's your last day?"
"Um, the 7th. I wrote a letter..."
"That's great, thanks. Just notify your supervisor, and I'll schedule an exit interview for next week."

And just like that it was all taken care of. If I'd known it was this easy, I'd have done it a long time ago! With the safety net of this job removed, I can build up the FEAR I need to begin the hard work of looking for another one. Mostly, though, I just feel (switching metaphors now) relieved of a burden that's been troubling me for a long time. I'm liberated... free as the wind blows! Speaking of things that blow, unemployment's creeping up on me. Time to get back to that job search. Next post will be about Paris.

Categories: work

View from our bedroom window

Rows of vines, ripe for the harvest

yet more truck graffiti

Tractor in the Champagne countryside

Impressionist photo of the lobby at Centre Pompidou

Petrol prices in Paris

Vintage bottles of Burgandy wine

The Cathedral of Notre-Dame at night

Ripe grapes on the vine

Crate full of Dom Perignon

Moet & Chandon's tall arched cellars

Holy awesome name for a restaurant, Batman!

Aging barrels in a Burgandy cellar

bicycle cops, ready to spring into action

Japanese-style chocolaterie in Montmartre

Hemingway's old haunt, the Closerie des Lilas

la Tour Eiffel

Graffitied Wall

anti-Bush sticker?

the Sacre Coeur

Monet's water garden in Giverny

Truck Graffiti #3

Truck Graffiti #2

Truck Graffiti #1

balcony view from our apartment in Montparnasse

No Giving Up!

Girls Are Pretty has a great story to continue in the vein of yesterday's post:

When you send out the updated list of office practices and regulations, your staff will be startled to find there in the middle of the list, just below, "No jeans or flip flops" and above, "No mugs with 'slogans' other than our company logo and slogan,'" you've added:

No Giving Up On Your Dreams And Settling For Your Current Job Because It's Convenient To Do So
Click that link to find out what happens next! Law students in particular should be curious to learn the fate of Marcus at the end of the post.

Sui Generis makes like a tree

France photos to come (soon I hope), but first, a major announcement. I quit my job tomorrow. I have no other job prospect. For a variety of reasons, I just couldn't stand to stay with that company any longer. I won't say any more, because the Internets are devious and not to be trusted. Suffice it to say that in two weeks or less, this blog may be very much about Sui Generis' Adventures in Unemployment!

Hopefully I'll find something before then and make a swift segue into my next career. Any twin cities peeps with job hookups, I would so love to talk with you. Or if you could get me in somewhere, say, on the West Coast, or in Boulder, or anywhere awesome, really, that would be nice. I do have skills. I do not have a long-term plan that dictates what I should do next, at this point, so any leads are welcome.

Thanks, and as ever, stay tuned.

Categories: work


\\\\\\These keyboqrd qre crqwy retqrded(((
hello friend? This is the Sui Generis in the Paris town using his crazy hunt:&peck skillz to bring you a blog post on limited internet time. I,m not so much looking at the screen as i type; so this is the best i can do: today is the last full day for me & j in this country & then we comin home: so ill have lots of photos to share witchall when i get bak at my own conpuuta;
so paris is fun, we drank lots of wine & ate crepes & stuff; !§§
un, we also travelled out of paris into burgandy, normandy & champagne for more adventiure!! vegetarian restaurants are rare; all the escalators broke; i like the cheap wine optioons!! wine is cheaper than pop; isn;t that nice!
so, i will be bqc w/ the full story when i return & get q better keyboard, almost used up my internet time here§ù*$^¨ççççç

Bon anniversaire!

This blog will be one year old as of September 22. I'm posting the blogiversary wrapup now since I'll be in France for the next two weeks and I'll just want to post photos when I get back. So here's something for you to read while I'm gone.

This blog has come a long way in one year! Don't go back and read my first post, it's stupid. In fact, don't bother reading any of my old posts. I can't find any good ones, they're all crap. Here's a better idea: instead of a clips show, I'll do an original year-end flashback episode. Fasten your seatbelts kiddies, now it is beginning of a fantastic story!!

When I started this blog, I was all about law school. I was a year or two out of college and contemplating a serious career change. I had also just gotten married! It was an exciting time, full of hope and promise for the future. I had taken the LSAT and gotten a decent score, so I spent most of my time wrestling with LSAC and winnowing down my choices of schools to send applications at.

I started trying to post photos regularly in my second month of blogging, which I kept up more or less regularly for a while. Then I ran out of cool photos. It's a habit I'd like to get back into, but I'm not rocking the camera as much as I did back in the day.

Meanwhile, I was scrabbling together application materials and writing a personal statement that turned out very poorly after lots of work. I sent it anyway. LSAC got my transcript, I finished my stuff, and applications started going out. Along with autumn came the insidious NaNaWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. Spurred on by AmbImb's example, I declared my intention to compose a 50,000 word novel in one month. I did it in two weeks.

I kept on writing at it for the next few months, ending up with around 70-80,000 words all told, but I was never fully satisfied with the manuscript. Currently I plan to trash it and start over with a complete rewrite, but I've got other writing projects in the pipeline as well, and I'm focusing on those for now. Maybe I'll take up my original book again for this year's WriMo.

With my writing goals met halfway through November, I switched to the Dvorak keyboard layout. I started to question my decision to go to law school. I drank wine and wrote some wine reviews. In early December, I was seeing reports of acceptance for other 0L bloggers, and the seeds of doubt were planted. Mailbox fear set in. The next several months brought on a flurry of deferrals, waitlists, and rejections, and law school slowly faded away.

I had a delightful first Christmas with my new family and a happy New Year. All I wanted to blog about was writing, but that wasn't interesting to anyone except me, so I started writing book reviews instead. They weren't very good, either. I didn't have anything to say about law school except that the waiting was driving me mad, but at least those posts seemed to garner lots of encouraging responses.

I took an unlikely trip to the Bahamas for a week in February. While we were there, I read most of Infinite Jest, which is awesome, and which wins the Sui Generis Book of the Year Award.

March was all about blog interactivity. I kicked it off with an all-request day and found that I can write a lot more and better in response to a question than off the top of my head. I recorded a podcast with AmbImb, some people liked that. I posted about the Million Writers Award and heard back from a few of the authors whose work I enjoyed. This was unexpected and wonderful. Thus began my foray into litblogging. All the excitement inspired me to write my own short story, which sucked, although everyone was kind enough not to say so.

I played a mean April Fool's Day joke by pretending that I got into law school. I guess the joke was on me, huh? (Because I didn't.) J got a job doing what she went to school for, and so then we were both working full time. For the conclusion of my law school application efforts, I interviewed with the dean at my local school and attended a class.

I gave up on law school after that, but we did win a TV. I started to reevaluate my plans for the future. With my standing in the legal profession no longer a concern, I dropped my cautious anonymity about topics such as tattoos that I might have. I got involved with a lot of volunteer events through my company. I bought my bicycle and started to ride, and we adopted our little Pug, Lola. We moved into a rental house in St. Paul and I commuted by bike. Life was good.

In June I was still trying to bring up law school every now and then, but it was no use. All I did anymore was ride my bicycle. I officially gave up on law school and gave in to the fact that my content had changed. I was writing about writing, life and career choices, dogs and bicycles, but the law school dream had died. A redesign was in order!

The new bicycle focus gave me plenty to blog about. I was out of steam on the topic of law school, but I was still officially waitlisted at two places. Halfway through August, I was effectively released from both waitlists on the same day, thus ending my law school dreams forever! With that settled, I turned all my attention to Plan B. J and I were both unhappy at our jobs and it was time for a change. What would we do next?

But first an intermission--my grandpa died last week and we scheduled the wake & funeral w/ just enough time to have them before J & I left for France. So that cut into our planning & packing times and we're rushed now. It's been crazy. Well, time to go to Paris. Come back on the 19th or 20th for photos galore. Catch you on the flip side!

Strong as Ten Regular Men

This morning, it was the soundtrack to Disney's Aladdin. I faced the galloping hordes, a hundred bad guys with Fords, and nearly got trampled twice. But, I made it in safely. Don't worry drivers, keep trying to run me over and I'm sure you'll get me some day, but not today!

On a totally different topic, I wonder who reads this site anymore. I used to have a stat counter but then I lost the password and gave up on it because I checked it obsessively and the low numbers depressed me. Lately I've been feeling altogether too good about myself, so it's time to recommence quantitatively measuring my value as a human being! See you in the visitors summary page!

Busy, busy, busy

I was given an unsolicited lesson on how to floss at the dentist's office today. I'm twenty-four years old, for crying out loud. Look, I don't always floss daily, but it's not because I don't know how. My mistake was admitting it. Next time I'm asked, I'll just say, "twice a day plus mealtimes!"

Meanwhile, at work, layoffs were happening! Unfortunately I was not among those chosen to receive a generous severance package and must continue to work for my money. At least we got that out of the way before I left on vacation. We will see what happens when I return.

Tonight, boxing up 3-speeds for shipping to eBay auction winners!