Did you hear the story on NPR this morning about the Louisiana State Penitentiary, also known as “Angola?” Angola used to be a cotton and tobacco plantation, and even now continues to grow cotton along with most of the food that the inmates eat. Twice a year the prison hosts a rodeo, and many of the prisoners have concessions selling some crazy-sounding southern food made with the vegetables they grown on the penitentiary’s land, as well as crawfish from their ponds. They don’t get to handle or keep the money, but it sounds like the experience of having others compliment their food and getting to be out interacting with people not from the prison is what makes it worthwhile to them.
Many of the prisoners are there for life, and it had me thinking about what the hell that would be like. Angola is set on 18,000 acres of what sounds like beautiful land, but that can hardly make up for forty or fifty years living behind bars with other people with histories as unfortunate as your own. Can you even imagine that? Continuing to try to live your life knowing there is no chance you will ever be free again? How thoroughly bizarre to realize that THIS is your life; that there is no reason ever to have dreams of where your life might lead you, because it’s not leading you anywhere, ever.
So that’s pretty uplifting.
Since I am still a free woman, I can travel, and as you know (since it’s pretty much all I talk about), R. and I are going to Paris and London in a month. With the crummy dollar, we’re not staying anywhere too exciting, but I am unable to stay anywhere too budget without crying and generally being a royal pain in the ass so we’re not in total dumps, either. We are staying at The Parkcity in London, which gets good reviews on Tripadvisor. I’m a little concerned that it’s going to be one of those weird, battered-around-the-edges places you see when you’re coming in from Heathrow onto Cromwell Road, but hopefully not. As for Paris, I’m still looking because even though our hotel looks pretty cute, it’s in Montparnasse. That’s not an area I’ve ever been particularly drawn to, although it is easy walking to the shops of the rue de Grenelle, Le Bon Marché, and then over to St. Germain, and there are plenty of good restaurants nearby. And it’s 135 euros a night, including VAT, so that’s pretty reasonable. I think my problem is, as usual, I’m a five-star kind of girl with a three-star salary.
I really need to start making some reservations for dinners in Paris; does anyone have any favorites they’d like to suggest? I’ve already booked a place called Le Timbre, which is newish and popular, and I figure we’ll go to a brasserie one night to ensure I get an adequate dose of foie gras, but I wouldn’t mind branching out a bit otherwise from my same old standards. So… any suggestions welcome.