Friday, August 3, 2012

Wednesday Promenade (With Cheese!)

Last week I met with the owner of a mastectomy supply/support shop, who gave me the name of a doctor I could see to get a prescription for a prosthesis (which I am considering, amazingly, and will tell you more about later) and also the name of a physical therapist who specializes in lymphatic drainage. I called the doctor and immediately proceeded to piss her off by giving the impression that I only wanted to pop in to have her sign a paper and that's all, and she is a doctor, she said, who sees patients and treats them, not a prescription-producing machine, and while there are doctors out there who don't care to practice medicine that's not her style, and so there it is, that's her opinion, and if I do want to have her as a treating physician, I'll need to bring the official paperwork, what do you mean what paperwork, it's the one everyone uses, just look for it on the internet, I'll see you Wednesday at ten o'clock, goodbye Madame, click. I was left with a buzzing telephone receiver and my ears buzzing from the torrent of impassioned French which I had to replay in my mind to understand. But I did find the required official paperwork on one of the French social services websites and got it printed out, and then screwed up my courage to actually go and see this possibly really angry doctor, whose office is in the Quartier Blanqui-Mirabeau area of old Tours, in the northeast corner, which has as its center the Eglise Saint-Pierre-Ville, originally a 9th-century chapel but now a large church, most recently rebuilt in the 18th century. I took the Fil Bleu 2A line and got off at the Ursulines stop (there's also an old convent in the area), and after locating the office went and sat in front of the church for a bit, as I was half an hour early and it was a lovely morning.

As I was wandering back towards the doctor's office, strolling along and looking around me at the houses, a young woman stopped me and asked if I was a tourist (I must have looked like one). I said yes, and a student here to study. She said she was too, a student that is, from Egypt and enrolled at the University to study modern literature for a year. We chatted for a bit and exchanged e-mails, and may get together for a cup of coffee and a conversation in a language not native to either of us.

The doctor turned out to be very nice, and after I apologized for any misunderstandings due to my defective French, she apologized for going off about the prescription, and that it's her main pet peeve and she had just gotten back from vacation and was dealing with accumulated paperwork in any event, and I just happened to trigger the outburst with my request for yet another piece of paperwork. We arrived at a mutual understanding, and I gave her my medical history, got a quick physical, and received a prescription for the prosthesis and another for the physical therapy work. I don't have student insurance yet, and so all the paperwork will be filed in a month, but once it is I should be reimbursed 100% for everything. I haven't had to pay anything yet, however; both the consultation with the mastectomy specialist and the one with the doctor were free, and the physical therapist will wait to bill me until after I'm on the student insurance.

The doctor's visit finished, I decided to take a walk along the Loire, since I was practically on the south bank of the river at that point. I walked across the Pont Mirabeau and then worked my way back towards the river, and the parc de Sainte Radegonde, a large greenspace on the north bank that has play areas, botanical gardens, and walking paths. And goats. The enclosure had a sign saying "llamas" and I could find no other explanation for the barn and the small herd of miniature goats, but there was construction going on, so perhaps it will be a petting zoo or a "farm life in the city" display for children.

Looking back across the Pont Mirabeau to old Tours, and the towers of Saint Gatien's Cathedral.

A footpath runs along the riverbank, sometimes paved, sometimes dirt, sometimes cobblestone. Steep stone or concrete steps lead down from the streets farther up the slope, and continue to the water's edge, or to within a few feet of the water, in any event, as the river seems to be fairly low right now, judging from the distance between the rusting metal rings for tying up boats and the current river level. I'm not sure if the river gets high enough to flood the path and lift these boats, or if it's just a convenient place to park them.

There are several small islands in the middle of the Loire as it runs through Tours, and you can reach Aucard Island by going over the suspended Pont Saint Symphonien from either direction.

Pont Wilson is named after President Woodrow Wilson, although that name wasn't given until 1918; the bridge itself was built between 1765 and 1788, and didn't appear to have a name, necessarily, though it replaced the 600-year-old Pont d'Eudes, which was falling down. During World War II the bridge was bombed both by the Germans and the French (to stop the Germans from advancing), but those spans were repaired after the war. The bridge started collapsing section by section in 1978, cutting off water and power to thousands of people and seriously disrupting traffic in the region, but by 1982 the bridge was rebuilt exactly as it had been originally designed 200 years earlier, in a series of graceful arches.

I crossed back over the Loire on the Pont Napoleon (noting the stairs leading down to Simon Island and the public park on the island, and making plans to take a picnic lunch there soon) and into Old Tours, where one of the University campuses is, and also the covered marketplace Les Halles, where two dozen vendors of charcuterie and fish, fruits and vegetables, pastries, wine, and cheese have their shops, all in a large building out of the rain. There were vendors in a square outside the marketplace as well, where a brocante (what we might call a yard sale, but you might find antiques at one, or used plumbing, or old books, or pretty much anything, really) had been set up. I paged through a few books and considered buying the birdcage to lock up the really annoying cat I now live with, but decided to pass.

I had to stop and take pictures of the cheeses in the marketplace. Dozens of goat cheeses I'd never seen or heard of before, in new (to me) and intriguing shapes and textures, and several of them made here in the Indre-et-Loire. The vendor told me that he could give me the names of the cheeses and contact information for some of the producers, and so I will be going back to that shop with my camera and notepad, and starting my cheese-related projects soon.

It was past noon by then, so I found a restaurant and had a lunch of crêpes au sarrasin (buckwheat), one filled with sauteed leeks and onions and mushrooms, the other with fig jam, and a small green salad. I think that although they're gluten-free, I should not eat crêpes much in the future, because there's milk in the batter, and butter is usually what's used to saute the fillings ... a shame, really, because they're delicious and inexpensive. Damn these food sensitivities anyway - they make travel, and life, a bit less fun sometimes.

I wandered back through the center of town, heading towards my next appointment, picking my way through the shattered streets that are being stitched together again with the streetcar system that's scheduled to be completed in a year, but which right now makes both pedestrian and vehicle traffic a matter of navigating through and around many barriers, and makes the city not as picturesque as it probably usually is. But there's always something interesting around every corner, and I found this lovely old church, the église Saint-Julien de Tours, at the south end of Pont Wilson, surrounded by video stores and fast-food restaurants. Such undignfied company for an edifice that's been there since the 13th century. The lower levels of the structure are now the home for the Museum of Wines of Touraine (the name for the area around Tours), which was closed that afternoon; another place to visit, possibly for something to take on my picnic to the park on Simon Island ...

After my first lymphatic drainage session in a month (and a sorely [literally] needed one), during which I got a half-hour précis of the history, development, and future of the theory and practice of lymphatic drainage techniques in France, I decided both that I need to get over feeling weird about disrobing in front of men I have just met and that it is very nice to be in a country where this proven-successful method is actually covered by insurance. The lymphatic drainage, that is, not the taking off of clothes in front of strange men, although I'd probably be able to find someone to reimburse me for that, too. It's the end of my second week here in France, and I continue to learn new things as I fit myself into a new life and routine. And speaking of routine, I think I'll go swimming now. It's a gorgeous day.

À tout à l'heure!

The calèche run by the bus company during the summer, which travels around the old area of Tours; I was waiting for the bus back home at the Place Jean Jaurès. A carriage ride is also on my list of things to do, especially since it's free. Touristy, but free.

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