'Stuck In Paris'

photo: cafe le refuge

Le Refuge is a must for all visitors 'stuck in Paris.'

'Tourist Hell' and Triumph

Email from Charles Fremont. Sent via the Internet: Monday, 1. August 2000:-

Monsieur Ric,

Nicole and I too have returned home, in our case to Webster Groves, Missouri, a one-time Café Metropole Club's 'City of the Week.'

All of Webster Groves, subsequently, was abuzz as wonderful pictures of us were discovered to be on the Internet, seated in a genuine Parisian café, at an official club meeting in the veritable City of Light - and reported on with such savoir-faire by the same club's secretary! Many thanks for giving us such a warm reception and writing such great stuff.

You will be happy to learn that we did indeed spend all of the money I have been saving all these 37 years - by dining at a different 'authentic' Paris restaurant or bistro every night we were in Paris and enjoying such a variety of French cuisine that my head is still spinning.

Les Bookinistes, Allard, Aux Charpentiers, Le Grizzli, L'Ardoise - all were delightful.

But then, the day we were to fly out of Charles-de-Gaulle airport, the utterly predictable happened. The French air traffic controllers went on a one-day strike. We were stuck in Paris!

So what did we do? First we changed hotels, as Le Régent was totally booked up. Then we were off to the Ile-de-la-Cité to tour the Conciergerie and see Sainte-Chapelle.

After that we went by métro to Montmartre, where we lunched on the terrace of Le Refuge, surroundedphoto: carmel, strike news by chic young Montmartrians. Nicole: the Italian salad and glass of wine. Charles: the croque monsieur on pain Poulain and a mug of draft beer. So 'authentic!'

Oh, did I mention that the Place du Tertre was so charming? It wasn't. We slipped through that tourist hell as fast as our little legs could carry us. And, back down in the city center, we trooped through the crowded halls of the Louvre's Denon Wing.

Nicole gets the 'bad news' from a newspaper - 'Air Traffic Controllers Strike!'

Tired, hungry, we tried to make last minute reservations at a few restaurants that had been recommended to me.

It was nearly eight o'clock and there was no such luck. But then the hotel's concierge asked "Do you know Le Petit Zinc?" We didn't. She phoned.

Yes, space for two if we would hurry over right now. Well, needless to say, it was wonderful, from the first taste of oysters on the half shell to the final swallow of crème brulée. Perfect for our last night in Paris.

The next afternoon, crossing Manhattan to my daughter's apartment on the Upper West Side, we remembered the old world beauty of Paris as we stared out our taxi window at the new world look of Downtown USA.

Back in St. Louis I am busy at work again, producing videos, enjoying life with family and friends, and keeping up our 100-year old house. Nicole has taken on no new projects other than to savor the rest of the summer to the fullest.

I make French roast coffee every morning but the local croissants leave much to be desired. The tricolor is still flying out front, since I put it back up on July 14th.

After watching people play pétanque in the Luxembourg Gardens, I have ordered a set of boules from an outfit in Florida that imports them from the French firm of Obut. Their Web site is Pétanque America. I thinkphoto: restaurant le petit zinc it's time you did a feature on pétanque. At least a picture or two. It's so - French! Why not make it the 'Game of the Week?'

Do you know Le Petit Zinc? If you hurry it has a table for you.

I have a nice snapshot of you taken on the terrace of La Corona, new camera in hand. I'll scan it and e-mail it to you soon - before we glue it into some scrapbook. I also have some interesting snaps taken around Paris but I don't suppose you'd want any of those. You do quite well on your own.

We had a wonderful time in Paris and will certainly return - but probably not for a few years, as I build up my credit again!

I am sad to think that the next time we may be spending Euros instead of Francs. I'm kind of traditionalist that way. I like the differences among the various countries - and I love the way the French currency honors French heroes like Cézanne, Saint-Exupéry, Eiffel, and the Curies.

In the meantime I will keep up with the weekly Metropole Paris and continue to check the weather in Paris every day.

And come autumn I have a surprise in the closet: a splendid black béret that I bought at Printemps. Oh, I know the Parisians don't wear them any more, but that bit of news has not yet reached St. Louis.


Text and photos above by Charles Fremont©2000
PS'd Out of 'Final Word'

Bonjour Charles -

Paris:- Wednesday, 3. August:- The part of your letter I like most is telling how you recovered from set-backs in Paris - there's a strike? No problem! Can't get a restaurant reservation? The concierge can, and does.

For the coming 'Euro' currency - one side will be 'Euro' and common to all, and the other side will be 'national,' that is - face value in 'Euros' on both sides, and one side illustrated with French heros, in France. After a time of circulation it'll all get mixed up and we will get used to all of the other European biggies on the money.

French gents of all ages do still wear bérets, usually in areas near the Pyrénées - so you are 'covered.' Use a red handkerchief as a necktie, ride around town on a Vélosolex and find some unfiltered cigarettes to carry over your ear - and you will do wonders for St. Louis!

About the open-air 'tourist hell' of the Place du Tertre on Montmartre - was it really so much worse than 'trooping through the crowded halls of the Louvre's Denon Wing?'

While club members and readers are mulling over this existential question, Charles sent a 'PS' about boules, and the game of pétanque:

"To learn more about the game, your readers can click on the home site of the 'Pétanque U.S.A.' organization.

"I read somewhere that the word 'pétanque' is the sound made when one boule strikes another. I will do the necessary research in my own backyard - 'Le Jardin Frémont-Martineau' - and report back to you."

Charles rapidly updated his 'PS' with the following:

"My boules arrived today along with a book I ordered, 'Pétanque, the French Game of Boules' by Garth Freeman. The book states unequivocally that the word pétanquephoto: charkes, carmel, la corona comes from two Provençal words, 'ped tanco,' which in modern French are 'pied tanqués,' which means feet tied together.

Nicole and Charles in happier days, right after becoming Café Metropole Club members.

"This is derived from the difference of the game from the older, similar game of 'Jeu Provençal,' in which one runs up to throw the boule. In pétanque the player must stand in a small circle, as if the feet were tied together. 'Pied tanqués' became pétanque.

"The new rules were developed in 1910 when Ernest Pitiot took compassion upon Jules Le Noir, a formerly outstanding 'Jeu Provençal' player who could no longer keep up due to an encroaching chronic rheumatism. The new rules made it easier for everyone to play and the new game took hold."

I am including the PS's here to show that the club's secretary does not always get the last word.

Charles' final PS to all the other PS's: "Next week: chess, the French Défense."
signature, regards, ric

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