Real Reader, Really in Paris

Editor Nearly Flubbs Rendezvous

Paris:- Thursday, 18. July 1996:- The 'meet Bill plan' didn't work today. Metropole reader Randi Shenkman called me last night and we baffled back and forth about where to meet - somewhere near where she intended to continue her visit to Paris, was my suggestion.

She said she wanted to take one of the canal tours, of the Canal de l'Ourcq, starting at 14:45. So we arranged to meet "at the closest café to the métro exit at métro stop Jaurés," at 14:00. The 'fallback plan' was to meet at the first bar from the same métro stop in the rue Secrétan.

The 'meet Bill plan' is the plan you use to meet somebody in a place in Paris where neither has been, or knows well. Meeting near a métro exit is good, because there is usually a 'nearest' bar-café, even if there are oodles of them. The modified version is to meet at the nearest 'open' bar - because one of them will be closed for certain. I wrote about this plan last November for The Paris Pages. That week there were two Bill's and one worked and the other didn't; and the second one cost me a burst tire.

About ten to two I come out the métro exit at Jaurés and imagine my surprise to find the two nearest cafés are McDonald's and the other is Burger King! Not only this, but my detailed map did not show a total of four métro exits, one with a closed bar, one with an open one, and two others slightly further away. Gazooks!

On the phone, Randi had been very certain nobody in Paris would be wearing white slacks and a navy top, but the lady in one of the bars, who was, wasn't Randi Shenkman. I ranged back and forth between the cafés and métro exits and even looked in the two that are not, strictly speaking, cafés - and I also looked across the canal to one too far away. After 25 minutes, I remembered the 'fallback' of 'the first bar-café in the rue Secrétan,' went there and found Randi, who had just calmly finished her lunch while I was walking around in the blazing sunlight with one of my crummy ideas.

Randi told me she is an assistant principal of a school in Springfield, Massachusetts. She did a year's term in school in Paris and returned for another year to do her masters in 1976-77. She worked for a while in the banking business, including some time in Marseille and Paris, and has managed to visit Paris three other times, before the present two-week visit.

Before I could find out much more we had to pay up and scramble off to look for the boat for the canal tour, at the nearby Bassin de la Villette. The canal is really wide here and neither of us knew exactly where to find the departure quai, but Randi asked at a newspaper kiosk - and we saw the boat from a long way off; but a shortcut sprint over a handy bridge got us there on time.

randi2.jpg (17k) After my first 'live' Metropole reader sailed off under the still blazingly blue sky towards the north-east, I picked up the canal tours brochure from the Canauxrama office on the Quai de la Loire. I can not find the particular tour that Randi took, but the company has a lot of others to choose from - some involving evening trips and dinners.
Randi had noted her Bastille Day visit to the park at the Buttes Chaumont in a notebook in longhand, and she took the trouble to go to a Cybercafe near her hotel and send it to me by e-mail. She did the legwork and she did a brave job typing it up on an unfamiliar French keyboard. While she was on the boat trip, I climbed up to the Butte and took the photos.

For those interested in the canal excursions - or cruises, the firm is Canauxrama, at the Bassin de la Villette, 13. quai de la Loire, 75019 Paris. Tel.: 42 39 15 00. Métro stop, Jaurés. The boats depart from the right side of the quai de la Loire, about a five minute walk from - the nearest - métro exit; the one beside the café on the angle of the avenue Jean Jaurés. The quai is right around the corner.

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