Dog Days To Come?

photo: terrace samaritaine

The rooftop terrace of the Samaritaine department
store at Pont Neuf.

Worrisome Pollution in Paris

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 2. August 1999:- France has been having a fantastic summer, according to the evening TV-weather lady and her occasional stand-in pal. To be precise, the skies have been mostly clear in Paris and daily temperatures are neighboring 30 C.

Each night the weather-lady clucks at the France-wide temperatures ranging from 26 to 32, and says, "But these don't quite add up to 'dog days.'" And adds, 'higher than seasonally normal.'

If you believe the TV-weather news, 'seasonally normal' for France is somewhere near the mean temperatephoto: old convertible for the ice ages. For me 25 C. is comfortable, 30 is warm and 'hot' starts after 35. 'Dog days' are when it is around 40 C. and humid, or without wind.

Neat little 'city' cars used to look like this one.

Elsewhere in France there are many local storms - mostly sudden and sometimes violent - cooked up by too much hot air. The other downside to the warm weather is air pollution in urban areas, including Paris.

The whole mass of air over the Pars area moves from northeast to southwest, so suburbanites in Essonne and Yvelines were stupefied last week to learn that pollution southwest of Paris was higher than in the city.

Equally astonishing, was the claim that it was partly the fault of the forest at Fountainebleau. Do you remember laughing when Ronald Reagan claimed many years ago that trees are heavy polluters? This seems to be the case.

This has gone on long enough, with weak winds, so the ozones or something are building up instead of being dispersed. This morning the whole Paris area has a Level 2 alert, which means all road traffic must roll at 20 kph under the posted speed limits. An expert said on TV last night that it is unknown if this measure will have a positive effect.

In Paris, municipal information panels post the latest news about the quality of the air. You can wait a good six minutes while watching one until it says, '5' maybe, followed by 'mediocre quality.' The other infos are about where to get gas masks and warnings not to leave your canary out of the balcony too long.

Last Wednesday I had a - what seemed long - tramp from Concorde through the Tuileries past the Louvre, to Pont Neuf. It was warm all right, but it may have seemed more so because of the heavy bag I was carrying.

At Pont Neuf, I went up to Samaritaine's rooftop terrace and had a cool drink. It is still free and semi-secret, with a priceless view. On top of it, it was less than crowded. The bar staff told me many Parisians show up at 18:00 to spend a cool hour there before it closes. The department store is open to 22:00 on Thursdays, but I'm not sure if the terrace stays open this late.

On Friday evening I had the chance for the first time to see the Friday night 'Roller Rando' launch itself from the Place de l'Italie. The night and the feel of the air reminded me of Spain but the roller people themselves were completely new.

Demonstrations in Paris that draw 20,000 marchers are considered to be fairly serious by the authorities, and can wreck traffic patterns for drivers for whole half-days.

So then, imagine 20,000 roller skaters taking a big tour of the city for three or four hours on Friday night. The way is cleared by no-nonsense moto-cops in front and all cross-traffic is blocked off for the twenty minutes it can take for the rolling herd to pass.

On top of it, the event finishes after the métro has stoppe running, so there are a lot of people skating all over Paris late in the night of Friday-Saturday.

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