Tuesday afternoon gave me time for riding, plus a late visit to the musée des Arts et Métiers (Arts and Industry). Turns out that they close off most of the museum at 5pm (and close outright at 6pm), but that you can check out part of it for free if you wait for 5:15pm. That was enough time to gawk at Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot’s steam car of 1771, which is considered to be the first self-powered vehicle ever built. From a modern engineering perspective, the thing was incredibly wasteful of energy, slow, and difficult to control. It also had no reverse gear, an undoubtedly fussy throttle, etc. But it worked, at about 2.5 mph, and I enjoyed reverse-engineering it for a while.

Cugnot steam car

Peg had caught wind of an operatic treatment of Cyrano de Bergerac playing at Théâtre du Châtelet that week, so we went to the ticket office earlier in the day to see about getting seats. Not surprisingly, Thursday and Friday were sold out, but they still had some seats for tonight. They called them mauvais (unfortunate), which in old Tiger Stadium-speak would have been “obstructed view.” Théâtre du ChâteletThey were nonetheless perfectly fine seats in the very last row (top level, back row, seats 27 and 29, if you can pick them out of the seating diagram model in the photo). Our only quibble was that the bowing and applauding and bowing and applauding (etc.) went on ridiculously long. We discovered later that this had been opening night, hence what would otherwise have been most excessive self-congratulations. I will say this — the sets were amazing. Act I opens to what appears to be the backstage of a theatre. Partway into the act, they open the curtain and start the show (within the show), and sure enough, there was a theatre on the other side, watching the show we were seeing from behind. Downright metaphysical. Act II’s set was a kitchen that put to shame the one from The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover. Culturally-speaking, my favorite part of the play may have been the intermission. I was struck with how quiet the mezzanine was, despite how crowded it was. It was easy to hear your own conversation and be heard without raising your voice — quite a contrast from a typical room in the U.S. full of tipsy theatre-goers.

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