The Guided Blues

photo: cafes at beaubourg

Beaubourg is mostly closed but nearby cafés
remain popular.

Bastille Day Is Nearer

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 5. July 1999:- As I write this the deadline has passed about seven hours ago. To habitually early readers, my apologies for being late.

After I got back from Paris last Friday I was struck by the idea that I hadn't done a feature article - I had the vague idea of doing one about the André Citroën park - see below - but I wasn't really anxious to try and spin out 800 words about it.

Summer guides had come into my hands in the form of those done by the magazines 'Nova' and 'Télérama.' Quite often readers ask about music, dance and things for kids to do in Paris - and since summer is a time when there might be fewer events, I thought a bit of service on this might be in order.

Programs and guides are nasty and tedious things to do and now I wish I'd done a feature instead. I'd be on time and not so cross-eyed from looking at tiny addresses in minuscule type; pinwheel-eyed from typing hundreds of eight-digit phone numbers.

Now they are done I'm glad I did them. As summerphoto: boulangerie, clichy goes on, I can hack bits off them as they go off their dates. One thing I learned; there is a lot more to do in Paris in the summer than just lie around like a lizard on terraces, especially if the weather is decent.

Light and shadow in Clichy.

Last Friday, with a dubious forecast for the afternoon, we had a stunning summer day, with temperatures around 30. You can see this in some of the photos. The dubious weather showed up late, on Saturday - and that is how it has been: for one day of fine weather we have been getting two or three days of unsettled - and it repeats every three or four days.

The Next Issue: - of this magazine if an 'iffy' thing. I have found an apartment in Paris to move to and the move will be taking place, starting before Bastille Day and continuing after it, for technical reasons. For these and other reasons, there may not be an issue next week - but I would think the week that will get skipped will be the one after; when I am in a sort of limbo between the village where I've lived for 12 years, and the flat in Paris, where I've never lived.

For this reason, I am not saying this is a double-week issue when there is a chance there will be a small issue next week. The week after that may well be a total blank though.

How-To Do Bastille Day Rehash:- it is just a tad over a week off. Below is a rehash of last week's comments for those missed them - to help you avoid showing up for the bash a day late.

Parisians and the French are as used to Bastille Days as their own birthdays so there is no great fuss in advance. A lot of people will do what they've done the year before and the year before that. No need for Le Parisien to mention any events until Monday, 12. July at the earliest. And this, only if there are 'special' events planned.

One thing to get straight, first: the majority of public Bastille Day parties and fêtes take place on the eve of Bastille Day; that is, this year, on Tuesday, 13. July. The fire stations in various quarters will host neighborhood parties, and these will be well-attended by burly firemen.

There will be some big general street affairs - probably one at the Place de la Bastille, maybe another at République; or both. Both of these places are big and can hold a lot of people. If you don't care for large crowds, it is better to avoid them.

Montmartre, with its revolutionary tradition, will also be an area where fêtes may bephoto: reflections chez clement, champs elysees expected. Many bars and cafés throughout Paris will also have their own programs, from elaborate to just having a bash with their regular clients. I imagine many dance clubs will also have special events programmed.

Champs-Elysées reflections by Chez Clement

The official Bastille Day parade takes place on the Champ-Elysées in the morning of Wednesday, 14. July. This will involve a considerable display of military pomp, but is worth watching for unusual features such as the engineers of the Foreign Legion and their beards.

When this hoopla is over, you have the rest of the day free to see soldiers wandering all over Paris, until the official fireworks time of just after sunset. Although the Parvis of Trocadéro is closed, I expect the big fireworks show will be viewable from the Champ de Mars as in past years.

This field in the 7th arrondissement is cluttered up by the Tour Eiffel, but will still hold about a quarter-million sparkler fanciers. A lot of people walk to this event and the hordes of people on the after-dark streets are an event in themselves, one that is eerie and village-like at the same time.

If you want to skip this - or intend to see big fireworks at Versailles or Saint-Germain-en-Laye - some of the fire stations have their neighborhood fêtes on the 14th instead of on the 13th. Generally, there is less of a party on the 14th.

Another factor to consider is that there may be a lot of shops and businesses shut on Monday and Tuesday, to make it into a big 'pont' - bridge - from Sundayphoto: terrace at saint germain to Thursday. Keep in mind also that Bastille Day is a national holiday and this means all museums, monuments, banks, department stores and official attractions will be closed.

Terrace cafés at Saint-Germain-en-Laye.

As a great deal of France now takes the bulk of its summer holidays from mid-July to mid-August, you should be careful to stock up on ready cash. While residents may empty the cash-automats for their getaways, those staying behind may be taking the pont, leaving a lot of ATMs un-refilled.

Finally. Bastille Day celebrates the French Revolution, which was about 210 years ago. Some people do not remember it fondly; but officially it is still considered a 'good thing.' You can be 'Red' and slightly goofy for the Bastille Day celebrations and nobody will think ill of you for being so.

Balloons Away! - and the Parc André Citroën revisited: in the first issue of this year I ran an account of a visit to the park where the balloon is, and I didn't think too much of it. Because of the balloon, I was back again last week.

Now the park is greener, but its big parts are too big - big enough for big balloons! However, while trying to get another angle I realized that the park has an attraction that is neither grass-green nor glass; two actually.

There are a lot of water surfaces and most of these are still. On the north side, there is a terrace and I wasphoto: balloon at parc a citroen up on it when it occurred to me that there is a fair amount of water noise; of water tumbling down the terrace - which made me think of the Alhambra and its gardens full of water effects.

The other attraction is the water jets between the two glass houses. They play. They frolic. They turn off, shoot up, stagger their heights; they are a show, and it takes more than a minute to figure out their cycles. Worth a look; worth a listen.

Lounging around with a little water music.

Rides on the balloon will cost 66 francs and will be free for Parisians under 12. The balloon can lift 30 adults or 60 kids or a mathematical combo of the two. Ah, if you want to go up to an altitude of 300 metres, the fare is 250 francs. Daily, from 9:00 until sunset; until December 2000.

Concorde Gets Its Sundial - Camille Flammarion's old idea to turn the Place de la Concorde into a giant sundial by using the shadow of the Obelisk as the watch-hand, was realized last Tuesday. However, at the time of inauguration, it was cloudy, which caused a bit of flatness to the Champagne. On sunny days, Concorde will give the time from about 7:00 to 17:00 - except in winter - until the end of December 2000.

The Summer Sales Are Still On - This means, of course, that you should not come to Paris without a little 'mad-money.' Since the sales are regulated to offer only what was in the shops - or nearly - when they began, the best stuff goes first. Discounts are again on the order of minus 10, 20, 30 and as much as 50 percent off. All articles have to display their full pre-sales prices. Caution: very good, very classic goods, are seldom offered 'on sale.' Many famous brand-names are, so there are some real bargains to be had. Continues until late July.

Plug for 'Visions by Herb'

On Sunday, 16. May, Herb Malsman had me talk into his microphone for a 'wretched excess' lasting three hours in the Latin Quarter. This was reported in the 'Scene' column in issue 4.20. After considerable editing - I hope - Web broadcast time finally rolled around, and this will be in two parts: last Monday, 21. June, and Herb's Père Lachaise visit, Monday 28. June.

Herb Malsman didn't know about sculptor Ousmane Sow's 'Little Big Horn' show on the Pont des Arts before he saw it, and seeing it blew him away. Tune in to his 'Visions' on Broadcast.Com's audio-book Web site to hear what babble sounds like, plus some other Paris noises.

John McCulloch wrote, "Artie Johnson style," but more importantly went on to add, "Perhaps you should point out that readers need to select 'AudioBooks' on the list at left, then 'World Tour' on the left of the new page, then register, then - maybe - download the new RealAudio G2."

photo: France 2-tv, lance armstrong firstVery Reduced 'Au Bistro' - With a week's worth of papers strewn around and many interesting items marked as 'fit to print' I do not feel like actually assembling them into a proper 'Au Bistro' column. This then is the week's news: an American named Lance Armstrong, a former victim of cancer, copped the Tour de France's coveted yellow jersey by coming in first on Saturday, the first day of this year's ride-around-France marathon bicycle race. What better news than this? Image:©France 2

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

count down Eiffel TowerIssue 3.27 - 6. July 1998 - This issue featured - Café Metropole - 'Non-Gabby Café Week' and the 'Au Bistro' column had 'All the News I can Remember.' This issue had three features, entitled 'Everything Is Okay In Saint-Denis,' 'The 1998 Tour de France Is Soon' and 'Learn To Love Pétanque Now.' 'Links for WC'98: Ready, Set - Allez les Bleues! was an service feature from our own service department. John McCulloch was the author on an email about 'Montmartre Unmobbed.' There were four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was titled or captioned 'Do Something About Sports.'

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 31. December 1999:

Only 180 more partly cloudy, partly sunny and sometimes hot Ile-de-France summer days to go until something really new begins to happen.
signature, regards, ric

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