Light On the Edge of the Clouds

Le Cou de Geol

Bastille Day Preview and Other Stuff

by Ric Erickson

Issue 2.27:- Metropole Paris - Monday, 7. July 1997:- Last week was a literal wash-out. As the man said, you can take just so many photos of rain-glistening streets and wet reflections off chrome and windows. If I hadn't been on this Metropole job, I would have bought a week's movie pass and a jumbo popcorn and said to hell with it.

Ah, it wasn't that bad; I'm just giving you a Paris gripe; pretty much the same as we were giving each other last week. Last night's weather forecast calls for a clear-up today and rising temperatures.

This is the prediction for the entire week; but I don't like those sneaky clouds TV-weather showed for next weekend - these have a habit of 'advancing' themselves. Call it crummy weather creep-back.

Enough moaning! I was helping out on another job - which you'll hear about someday - and I got worn out by the damp and the cold; and my last chance to go out got scrubbed by local circumstances which are completely uninteresting.

Mark Bastille Day on Your Calendars

It is important to do this if you intend to help Parisians celebrate their 'Fête Nationale' because on one hand it is taken very seriously, and on the other, it is so familiar to everyone here, that nobody mentions it in advance.

I like a good party as well as the next person - I do live in France after all - but I have never been a serious Bastille Day bash-goer. Metropole reader Mike Harmon writes about his Bastille Telerama Summer Special Day experiences in this issue. I asked him to do it because I showed up on the wrong day once too but I don't want to admit it.

Télérama, normally a TV-guide, puts out a good summer special edition.

This is all explained - sort of - in this week's Careful Planning Needed for Bastille Day feature. In many cases, local residents can be pretty laid back about going to Bastille Day parties because they are right in the neighborhood where you live - or close by.

So, you can say, you don't want to go to all the trouble of getting to the Champ de Mars for the fireworks, and just walk over to your local firehall instead. Takes no great advance planning. But if you are a visitor, there may be no signs or posters around, and you are not going to be reading Le Parisien next Friday or Saturday, so you are not going to know what is going on, or where, or when.

Paris is a 'street party' town and there are a lot of them all the time. I'm trying to remember back a dozen years and I can't come up with a 'Fête Nationale' memory though. Maybe I can, and it is not the New Year's Eve memory I seem to remember it being; and I have been on other all-night street affairs - and they are sort of jumbled up.

The Trocadéro fireworks I have seen from the Champ de Mars and it is good fun and the huge crowd was good-natured as I recall. After it was over, it was a bit eerie to be walking with ten of thousands of shadowy people towards the nearest métros or cars parked somewhere in other arrondissements.

As a 'Web Reporter for Paris' I have been to the firemen's ball - the one in the rue Blanche - and I recall it being very good-natured as well. I kept expecting the alarm bells to go off and see the firemen disappear, leaving us poor civilians to pour our own beers. I sat with the chiefs for a while and I wondered if they weren't getting a bit over-tired, but no alarms sounded so I didn't get a chance to find out.

A local firemen's ball last year in a municipal parking lot was not nearly so interesting even if they had brought a couple of firetrucks with them - and their music wasn't as good as the disco in the 9th, even if it was 'live.' I think they ran out of beer too; or was it sausages?

To People Who Carry Big Things On Their Backs:

Last week on the métro I was sitting in a seat next to a mom and her daughter was sitting opposite her, next to the aisle. The car was fairly crowded and a young lady with a huge, red, backpack was standing right behind the girl.

Besides having the very large baggage, I could tell the young lady was a visitor as she was bending down a bit to see the station signs Lido - Champs-Elysees as we came into them. She sort of made for the doors a couple of times before she decided Etoile was were she was getting off.

These are not backpack people; these are people who forgot their umbrellas.

A lot of people were getting off there and half as many were trying to get on. The young lady moved forward, and the girl on the opposite seat, her head snapped back, against the chrome back-seat hand-bar. I couldn't see exactly how, but her pony-tail had got itself attached to the young lady's backpack.

The young lady felt the resistance but didn't look around. The young girl's mother couldn't figure out what was going on - neither could the young girl - somebody was yanking on her pony-tail was all she knew. Yanking hard now.

The mom started to get up - the girl yelled, "Cut it!" - and the young lady heard this and looked around - but the backpack was so big she couldn't see what the matter was. By now other passengers were in the act and between them and mom they got the hair unhooked - and - miracle - the young lady managed to get out of the car before the doors closed.

The whole business took about 30 seconds. With the car a bit more crowded, more noise... I don't know what could have happened.

I know those big backpacks must be handy for carrying things; but a lot of them are too big and have too many hooks and gizmos and sub-packs - the packers are not really in control, not agile with them. Some of them, being as heavy as they are, can really give an innocent passenger on the métro a good clout - and the packer is often completely unaware of this.

Like bicycle riders in countries where safety-consciousness is paramount, back-packers should affix warning batons to their packs; so you get tapped with these as a warning before you get badly whacked by the full load.

Free Toilets in Paris

Since laws on the books have a bad habit of staying on them, I suppose that bars and cafés are still obliged to allow non-customers to use their toilets. This goes back to the days when there were few public facilities, just as there were few public telephones which were not located in bars and cafés.

The cost of a public toilet in Paris runs about two francs to three; and I mean the automatic ones on the streets or the ones in train stations and the few still around, near métro exits. Counting the other odd places you can find them, they add up to quite a number now, and usually there is no need to seek out a bar or café if that's all you need.

But since the public ones do cost some money, it seems to me to be fair to pay to use the ones in bars and cafés. A fast café costs from 5.50 to six francs with tip, and if you include the use of the toilet in this, then by taking care of both either the café is only about three francs with use of the toilet thrown in, or you can consider the toilet costing six francs with a free café thrown into the deal.

Until I saw it happen last week, I didn't think anybody walked into ordinary bars anymore and asked for the toilet, used it, and then without a 'thankyou' went across the street to a classier-looking place - with lots of toilets.

At Your Service

In the incident above, right after I watched the two fairly well-dressed ladies disappear across the street, a young fellow with long hair came into the bar and seemed to ask for water.

Most bars have an ordinary-water tap among all the other taps on their beer-towers. A lot of people want a small glass of water on the side with their thick express Club Tania café. The patron reached for this tap, but the fellow indicated he wanted some other water.

This is an ordinary whisky bar; only open in the evenings, only for certain people. People with money.

A lot of people don't like tap water or they have some water-preference, some mineral water say, so there was a bit of back-and-forth about this customer's water desires. When it dawned on everybody, that the customer wanted one of the one and a half litre bottles of mineral water, the patron told the guy he should get it at the 'Nicolas' next door where it would be cheaper.

The young fellow seemed doubtful about this, but he finally nodded and went next door. When I came back from the toilet I saw him walking out of the bar with a big plastic bottle of mineral water.

The patron looked at her watch and asked her partner when the Nicolas opened after lunch. It was 15:15. I went out and looked and the Nicolas was closed.

I doubt if there are many bars in Paris that will send customers next door for cheaper water. The one I was in is on the rue Washington, about 150 metres from the Champs-Elysées.

Some Events

Only one: the 'Fête Nationale,' Saturday, Sunday and Monday; 12, 13 and 14 July. Note that the actual national holiday is on Sunday, the 14th, and many museums which are normally open on Sundays in France, will be closed.

Metropole One Year Ago

count-down eiffelIssue 1.20 - 8. July 1996 featured the columns - Metropole 'Diary' - Defective Memory; and 'Au Bistro' - Roadblocks and Free Rides. Articles in the issue were: Prehistoric Impressionism at Saint-Germain-en-Laye and The Stone Place - the Place Vendôme and the Ritz. Ric's Cartoon of the Week rounded off the issue.

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 2000:
Only 908 days left to go.

Regards, Ric
Send email concerning the
contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
Metropole Midi © 2014
– unless stated otherwise.
logo, metropole sml midi logo No matter how good it tastes,
there is no such thing
as a free lunch.
Waldo Bini