The Millennium Horizon

photo: bercy village wine restos

Part of the old Bercy wine depot has been turned into
chic wine restaurants.

Needs a New '2000 In Paris' Column

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 6. September 1999:- This issue is dominated by sun, sex, Las Vegas - again! - Mouffetard - again! - and a big party. During it I pay visits to my dentist, meet visiting readers and crawl around Paris for the good of all and the RATP which has kindly furnished the transport system.

Obviously all of this can't fit in one issue, just like 11 million French kids can't fit in the schools for their 'Rentrée' today - but they will do it, and this week's Metropole 'fits in' itself. Somehow.

An example is 'Blues On the Seine' below. I caught it while cruising Paris looking for 'Les Fêtes de la Seine.' This party is four days long, but the activities on the Quai de la Gare are year-round, so the essay is on this page.

Metropole's New Web Address

Last week, on publication day, 'Metropole Paris' moved from a sub-basement of the Internet to its own new home, in its brand-new Dot-.Com domain. Either the move went okay and there were no glitches, or nobody has bothered to mention them.

Here then, for possibly unalert readers, is the new URL for 'Metropole Paris:' http://www.metropoleparis.comPlease 'bookmark' the new URL if you feel like it. If not, the old URL will continue to work - through the arcane magic of an item called 'redirect.'

The Dentist's Treasures

Last week my dentist opened up her door for my mouth's 'rentrée' and showed me into the waiting room. I had been in it a couple of times in mid-July, but hadn't really looked it over - I was in and out of it so quickly.

Last week I was nervous, so I gave it a tour. It is not a big waiting room, but looking it over took more than ten minutes. It has been made smaller by being a collection point for many mornings spent atphoto: view, allee aux cygnes the nearby Saturday fleamarket at Vanves. It looks like an antique dealer's small shop, with cabinets, standing lamps, picture frames, unmatched chairs, sofas and several glass display cases crammed full of a lot of 'collectibles.'

The Allée des Cygnes is on this island in the Seine.

In one display case, there is the top half of a skull on one side and the lower jaw is on the other side. Between are some old surgery tools and a lot of other odds and ends.

The mirror over the fireplace has a words-and-pictures travelogue about East Africa, along with some dental hints. Odd items are stashed behind an antique screen and piled up in every other corner.

Behind the miniature sofa where I decided to sit, I noticed a whole pile of big, round canisters, like three-reeler movie film cans, but with ventilation holes. They looked more industrial than antique, they appeared to be made of heavy-duty aluminum and to be fairly new.

The dentist's operating salon is much the same, with display cases full of those glass things with flowers or whatever they are, in them. There is barely room for the torture chair, and an antique desk on flimsy legs and a comfortable chair for sitting in while writing big cheques.

After trying to find my mouth's records amid the incredible disorder and making some molds, I mentioned the 'collection' and the odd containers.

Her eyes lit up. Ah! Yes, they were from the Vanves flea market. They were medical sterilization containers, made to French navy specifications.

A little one, she said, indicating the size of a catfood tin, costs about 500 francs, new. The ones she had - the size of a round case of catfood tins - priceless. The navy, having phased out a lot of its medical services, has gotten rid of them and they somehow ended up at Vanves fleamarket.

She said there was a doctor picking up stuff there too - knee-jerk hammers, unused and brand-new - and she was passing on some of her sterilization container collection to other dentists and colleagues.

Near the door, on the way out, she showed me another pile of the canisters that I hadn't noticed. She showed me how to open and close the ventilation slots. One big enough to steam-cook two good-sized trout, was worth about 3000 francs at a medical-supply place. She figured the vendor at Vanves paid about 10 francs a piece for most of them.

I must get down to Vanves when I have ten francs to spare for treasure, or 200 francs to get a gross of them.

Blues On the Seine

On Thursday, in stunningly beautiful weather, I was looking for the beginning of the Fêtes de la Seine at Bercy and across the river, along the Quai François Mauriac and the Quai de la Gare.

These are the quays at the foot of the Hyper-Grand Bibliothèque Nationale in the 13th arrondissement. In winter you'd put your collar up a little higher and not give them a second look.

You can't miss them from the Bercy side, because of the dark red Batofar,photo: blues cafe, quai de la gare an ex-lighthouse ship. 'Batofar' is a neat name because it is the only one in French which is spelled phonetically. Normally it would be 'Bateau-Phare.'

On the Quai de la Gare - with the Quai François Mauriac in the background.

The Batofar is getting a reputation as a good - or loud? - late-night dance joint. In all, there are eight or nine ships and barges tied up along these quays and nearly all of them are restaurants, dancing joints, or both.

Local neighbors are reported to be complaining of course. These must be late-night researchers in the big library, because there isn't much else around; not much to stop noise from travelling either.

But, the quay is wide, there's parking, there's a nearby métro station, and the Bercy sports palace and concert hall is just across the way - and so too is Bercy 'village' with its growing cluster of restaurants featuring quality wines.

After watching a fellow stringing up some super-disco light inside the Batofar's light tower and another guy trimming the boat-deck's beer taps, I wandered down the quay.

Between the Batofar and the El Alamein barge, there was a tower of aluminum scaffolding, and some tables with parasols set up beside another barge. This was supposed to be the location of the Fêtes de la Seine on this quay. People are supposed to go swimming here on the weekend.

I was invited to climb the tower; placed to give a view of the new - the 38th! - Seine bridge. This is to be a footbridge, linking the bibliothèque with Bercy. The Pont de Bercy and the Pont de Tolbiac must be too far apart and this new bridge will be a shortcut to Bercy's park.

From the top of this tower, the most imposing sight is the finance ministry building sticking out into the Seine by the métro's bridge on the Bercy side. It easily outranks the cement works, from which it came. Otherwise, trees are the only thing showing over at Bercy, while the bibliothèque's plateau has fewer features than outer space.

Further along, at the Blues Café, I was looking at its bill of musical fare when a man on the gangplank called out to me to come around for the music in the evening.

I am really dubious about dancing inside the hull of a river barge. But we struck up a conversation and I was invited aboard to take a look.

Barges are huge and this one is the biggest along there; having the man said, an underdeck space big enough for 250 to frolic. The portholes were all open and it was cooler in the hull than outside. With another 50 on the deck above, also covered, I expect that what the neighbors complain about, is the overflow on the quay.

What can one hear at the Blue's Café, I asked my guide. He said, "Reggae-Raga." He explained that this is African-style reggae, or reggae is Caribbean style raga - his hand gestures sort of filled in the missingphoto: quai de la gare as terrace links, which include the Atlantic.

Just so long as it isn't techno, I said. He said they do techno too sometimes. People like it and pay to hear it. I said I used to get paid to listen to it while working in factories.

The café terrace beside the location of Paris' new 38th bridge.

My guide hadn't spent a lot of time in metal-working factories in Africa, so he looked dubious about this until one of the other guys tore up some wood with a power-saw. "Like that?" he asked when the racket stopped.

We agreed that it didn't really matter - even if it was a shame to let a fully equipped bandstand go to waste. The important thing is music; anything except silence he said.

After the philosophic 'sense of silence' from a couple of weeks ago, I think the most important thing is dancing - and if it takes techno to do it, then techno is okay. I just hope the kids don't use their fathers' vinyl records to make it with.

As I was leaving the quay an old couple asked me where the Fêtes de la Seine were. They had an invitation card. I pointed out the scaffolding tower in the distance - not sure if they could see it, not sure if they could get across the hot, sunny quay before getting to its parasols.

I didn't say the 'Fêtes' location was just after the seventh floating disco barge. They might have been a couple of the neighbors.

The Fall Season and '2000 in Paris' - since the beginning of the year, readers have been hinting that they intend to be in Paris for the turnover from 1999 to 2000. The Ville de Paris has not been asleep; its plan is called 'Paris 2000.' It is a fairly modest plan - 'from the heart' - as it's called. The national program seems equally low-key.

Coming events for the big turnover are sketched in this issue's new '2000 In Paris' column. When more details are available, then the event will be detailed in the 'Scene' column. In this way, you can get an overlook from now until next summer from the shorter '2000 In Paris' items, and 'Scene' has what's coming soon or now playing.

Photos of the 'Fêtes de la Seine' can be found throughout this issue.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 3.36 - 7. September 1998 - The Café Metropole's subtitle was - 'Paris Goes Event Crazy.' 'Au Bistro' had 'Johnny Gets Rained Out On Friday.' This issue had two features, entitled 'The Aéro Club's 100th Birthday Party Idea' count down Eiffel Tower and 'Photos: This Year's Last Tango in Spain.' There were four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Nice Tan!'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 2.36 - 8. September 1997 - The Café Metropole coumn was called - 'Who Demands 'Tabloid' Garbage?' The Au Bistro column was entitled 'Diana and Dodi's Fatal Ride - Lots of News But Few Facts.' This issue had two features, entitled 'At the Place de l'Alma Crash Site' and 'Surviving Back-to-School Chaos by 95 Percent.' There were two 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Our Respects.'

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 31. December 1999:

Only 117 more mostly sunny, almost hot, or occasionally unsettled Paris and Ile-de-France autumn days to go until the really big year-end party is in full swing.
signature, regards, ric

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