The Big Tour - Short Version

photo: paris en balloon, fortis

An approaching summer storm keeps the balloon anchored.

The Philosophy of Batteries

Paris:- Friday, 6. August 1999:- The weather forecast is for dodgy. In principle, clouds are sweeping up from the southwest, or from Ireland. There is more chance of short, sudden and windy showers than there is of unlimited sunshine; but the temperatures will stay between 28 and 30.

I have a scenario for today. I am pretending to have one day to visit all of Paris. I start from a hotel in the Rue Daguerre and when I get to the métro I buy a 'Mobilis' card-ticket for 32 francs. This allows one day of unlimited travel by bus, RER or métro, within Paris.

Before starting I write a rough itinerary, with the idea of visiting some of the spots featured in the 'Scene' column.

My intention is to make a non-stop run, because I have acquired a new camera which should have enough capacity to take all the photos necessary. The old one only held eight shots, which cramped mobility a lot.

After long and careful consideration - 18 months' worth - I got the new camera on Wednesday. Atphoto: hotel telemanque the fnac in Montparnasse, they had none in stock so I suggested taking the display model. Coupled with my 'faithful customer discount day,' they sweetened the discount to 10 percent.

The nighborhood hotel is my theoretical starting point.

At home I tried it out. The old one was simple 'point-and-shoot' and this new one has six-speeds, reverse, and auto-oil-check. Also, its new batteries died after five low-resolution shots.

Made me think, maybe the salesman was right about getting the charger and the power batteries. I read the instruction booklet - of 188 pages - again. This is when I noticed that the model I had was not the model I had intended to buy. The box and the instruction booklet were correct, but the 'off-the-shelf' camera was an older, 1500 francs cheaper, model.

Back at fnac on Thursday, the salesman said he had tried to call me to tell me to come back for an exchange - but of course, I've moved, haven't I?

The switch was made and the store threw in a 16 MB memory card for my trouble. I gave my new address and phone number to the customer service, and also picked up an ordinary charger and battery kit. I already have one of these, but I might need two of them.

With this out of the way, I can start my one-day 'tour' today. The hotel, by the way, has doubles with showers for 230 francs - about 38 dollars - and breakfast is 15 francs extra. There are a number of hotels like this in my new neighborhood.

Because it is a bit out of the way in the bottom of the 15th arrondissement, the first thing I want to do is take the tethered balloon ride that is supposed to be so spectacular.

From métro Ballard I walk to the Parc André Citroën, and about two kilometres throughphoto: marche rue st charles it to where the huge balloon is tied to the grass field. At the ticket office they say< flying is off on account of a rainstorm expected at 13:00. With this I lose seeing the view, but save 66 francs.

The Rue Saint-Charles runs up most of the 15th arrondissement.

The edge of the Seine has been fixed up, so you can now get to this park by boat in 20 minutes, from the quay at the Tour Eiffel. Departures are on the hour starting at 13:00.

I am too soon for the return trip at 13:40 but have a look at the quay anyway, because the France-3 TV show 'Thalassa' boat is tied up here. 'Thalassa' is on every Friday evening, for lovers of the sea and ships. It has been on TV for about 86 years, I think. The boat looks like a new acquisition.

From the quay at the park it is a long walk back to the métro. It is a long walk to the Tour Eiffel too - my next destination - but I end up walking up the Rue Saint-Charles, right out of the 15th and into the 7th arrondissement.

Although partly cloudy, it is a bit steamy. I am trying to think of philosophical thoughts about Paris in summer, until I reach a wall of buildings at Rue de Fédération, which seems like a concrete dead-end after the liveliness of Saint-Charles. Philosophy is not easy when thirsty.

The detour brings me to the Avenue Bouvard, which divides the Champ de Mars. All sorts of campers are parked on the east side of the avenue and a lot of people are around, but I do not see the Bullfrog bike rentals.

Under the tower it looks like several thousand people are waiting to go up, and it looks like all four elevators are in operation. I buy a plastic bottle of water from a vendor and find a bench to sit on while drinking it.

From the Pont d'Iéna I see a Batobus pulling out to head upstream towards Orsay. The camera's dead-battery signal is winking, but I pop a shot of the quay, with the other boats and the café terraces.

Dead batteries? I've taken 12 shots, plus three or four from before. The memory-card will hold another 35 photos at least. Oh well; my feet are hot anyway. Maybe I should get the super batteries and charger?

As I walk the shorter way around the right side of the Palais de Chaillot to the métro, I think maybe the dead batteries are a signal that it is lunch time. Luckily I've got the 'Mobilis' ticket and can ride home directly from Trocadéro.

I mull over this battery problem while riding thephoto: tour eiffel métro. What's the point of spending a gazillion francs for a super camera if the autonomy is only 50 percent more than the old one? With the 16 MB memory card, I'll have to recharge at least 16 times to fill it up. What a schmozzle!

At Denfert it feels like a steam-bath. People are wilting around. I put the batteries in their charger, make lunch and eat it. May as well have a siesta and see what happens. Worst comes to worst, I can use the old camera for a later session.

A people's-eye-view of the Tour Eiffel.

There is loud banging. I open the courtyard shutters that I've left closed in case of rain. The building's guardian is right outside bashing away at a beat-up Vespa scooter. He asks me if he's woken me up. I tell him about starting my siesta. He keeps banging away.

That park, that long, long Rue Saint-Charles; bang-bang, and off I go. When I first saw my tiny; odd-shaped bedroom, I thought only people with pyramid-heads could sleep in it; but it's okay. Bang-bang. Bang-bonk-buzzzz...

The Plan 'B'

Afterwards, I see the charger's light is green. I am doubtful. I also see the camera's settings have reverted to default and have to be re-set. What is this?

When I got the first camera in '95 I had a lot of trouble with it in the beginning. Then it settled down and worked perfectly for four years, with only one upgrade of rechargeable batteries.

How far can I get with the new one on a fast recharge now? Should I go all the way to Montmartre and have it conk out after a dozen shots? It'll be a long, hot, métro ride up there and back.

Out in the courtyard, the guardian is still banging away on the Vespa. He tells me it hit a tree. He got it for 2000 francs; only 20,000 kms on it. I see its tires are like new. This is good - a Mr. Fix-It guardian. Perfect for a non-fix-it fumblefingers tenant like me. 'A bientôt,' and off for plan 'B.'

My original plan - Etoile, Concorde, Opéra, Montmartre, the canal Saint-Martin, Bastille - seems out the window now. I settle for Vavin, two métro stops away. Shoot the Balzac statue there and do the Boulevard Montparnasse - and if the batteries go flat, then hop into fnac and get the super-charger.

It is so steamy that Le Dôme has more people on its terrace inphoto: 'statue en bronze de balzac par rodin' carrefour vavin the shade than the Rotonde has on its, in the sun. Power be damned, I use the zoom to shoot the terraces of Le Select and the café l'Atelier from the shady side of the boulevard.

The first time I look for Balzac's statue, I learn that it's gone home.

Power be damned, I shoot up the boulevard and down it. I do the cafés around the big place and go down almost as far as Vaugirard. I go back and turn down Rue de Rennes, past the closed Tati in the amazing Félix Potin building, past the fnac to Saint-Placide. Shoot, shoot.

Then I turn left into the Rue Saint-Placide and drift past all the discount shops, until Rue de Sèvres and the Bon Marché, which is covered in scaffolding.

I think keeping on the Rue de Sèvres, all the way to Croix-Rouge will be interesting, but it isn't, particularly. At the Rue de Rennes again, I am tempted to turn left and head for Saint-Germain-des-Prés. But the light is flat. My feet feel flat too. The low-battery signal is winking.

After the zooming and all the offs and ons, the frame read-out says 27 shots in the memory. This is nearly double the number I got earlier in the day. From a 90-minute charge too. Seems better. Maybephoto: poster balloon rides it'll go to 36 shots next time. Maybe I'll get my money's worth out of a 'Mobilis' ticket some other day.

Just as I come out of the métro at Denfert, big drops of rain begin to spatter the sidewalk. The wind begins gusting. I wonder if they've kept the balloon grounded all day for this.

I am a bit annoyed that my plan for the day didn't pan out and wondering about the camera, kept me from being philosophical about Paris in the summer.

Parisians were shopping at the marché on Saint-Charles, visitors were waiting to go up the Tour Eiffel, and other Parisians were hunting for last-minute summer sale bargains. Some wilted people were sitting on café terraces.

Paris in the summer - in this issue, the best choice of about 40 photos, all taken today; Friday, 6. August 1999.

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