Yippee! We Made It!

photo: cafe le panorama

A couple take in a rare bit of sunshine, at the Café
Orbital near Luxembourg.

Only 51 Issues To Go Until 2001

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 3. January 2000:- Last week almost blew my cools. It was a case of don't think, just do it. The situation caused by the 2nd storm smashing into France rated a daily update to the Au Bistro column. Readers who followed this and wrote, are truly appreciated.

On Thursday, Café Metropole Club members at the meeting wanted to know 'how to see' New Years in Paris. I put in my two centimes' worth, but listened to their ideas too. I wanted a solution to how to 'cover it all' with minimum effort, because any effort was going to be considerable.

The weather was pretty crummy all week too, so this caused problems with getting the photos that gophoto: under bir hakeim bridge with the usual columns. New Years posters numbered one, and what was left was one of the poorest collections of the year.

A huge number of emails from readers drifted in and took a long session to keep them from getting overwhelming. In the last couple of days more have arrived to replace them.

A Friday view of police baricades, hidden on the Pont Bir-Hakeim.

If my neighbors watch my shutters for their opening times, they probably think I am some sort of playboy who sleeps until noon in bare feet. If they see the light filtering through the vents at 02:00 and 03:00, then I want to know what they are doing, up so late.

With these lopsided hours, a hazard is not eating correctly. By this I mean not eating regularly and enough. It is very easy to say, 'just one more item, one more little job.' When it is three hours later and there's still no fuel, then keeping on is self-defeating. Tanking up is hard to manage.

But these are small problems compared to the agony the residents here have been going through and a lot are still having. Paris was as good as unscathed by the two wind storms. Out in the countryside, devastation has been immense.

Try thinking of Christmas and New Years with candles for light and fireplaces for heat. Temperatures out in the country have been below freezing most nights.

Radio France-Info said this morning that a half-million householdsphoto: crepes stand, montparnasse are still without electricity. EDF, France's power supplier, has been turning the lights back on at the rate of about 100,000 households per day. Day after day.

In case you were worried - the lights are on in Paris.

Before they can put a power pole back up, they have to clear away the trees that knocked it down. Some of this is done in snow and sub-zero temperatures. It's a good thing chainsaws run on gas.

As soon as London's New Year party wound down, the Brits packed up the big generators used for it and have shipped them to France. Power technicians from 20 countries have come to France to help - including a crew all the way from Canada.

Meanwhile, out on the western beaches, thousands of volunteers gave up their holiday period to comb beaches and collect large amounts of horribly ugly oil sludge - while another group has been trying to rescue birds covered in the filth.

Other people spent their time pushing mud and ruined furniture out of their flooded and wrecked houses.

And somehow - not everywhere of course - somehow some people managed modest New Years parties by candlelight. In towns ruined by wind, water and oil, inhabitants came out at midnight on Friday and blew their horns and set off a couple of rockets. It's 2000 after all.

So it is. While getting showered by Champagne near the Etoile very early on Saturday morning, I realized that all the lights were still on - on the Champs-Elysées at least. In the next few days, more light will come back on.

The Boo-Boo of Last Year

Your 'Christmas Where You Are' letters to Metropole totalled 10 and not 'XX' as I wrote here last week, which was last year. There were many other little boo-boos in last week's issue - just as there are always a few in each week's issue. Thank you for either overlooking these or not writing to whine about the minor ones.

Important Dates

First up is Orthodox New Year on Thursday, 6. January. This is followed by the 'Year of the Dragon' which is on Saturday, 5. February.

La Grande Parade de Paris

This parade, held now for the past eight years on New Years Day, is not exactly like the Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena. For starters, Paris is not southern California. Here it is winter damp and on Saturday there was drizzle.

This parade is an imported affair. Parisians do go out to see it but when it was held on Montmartre, it wasphoto: paris grande parade forgiven anything it seemed to lack. After all, it had Montmartre for a background. But tramping around the Rue Lepic is not an easy jaunt on stilts.

Here is one of the French marching bands in Saturday's 'Grande Parade.'

This year's parade on the 'Grands Boulevards' showed the ambitions of the organizers to be 'grand,' as well as the ambitions of certain people in Paris to stick a '2000' label on anything that looks like a freebie for the folks.

Being one of these, there I was on Saturday, opposite the Porte de Saint-Denis, on the boulevard of the same name.

This old city gate has been renovated and no longer looks as if it is covered with black soot. First the gate, then the boulevard, and most likely the property developers are already busy buying up the neighborhood.

The participants formed up by the Porte Saint-Martin and at 14:00 started their trek to the Madeleine. This advance was halted opposite the city gate, to receive the blessing of the mayor, which was duly noted by the folks as they opened their umbrellas.

First to come along was a marching band, in unwinter-like blue and white. Flag wavers - red flags! - reminded me this is a favorite route of the May Day parades.

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