Post-Summer Festivals

photo: cafe l'horizon, st placide

Café terraces - welcome refuges for shoppers.

In the Mood, In Paris

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 11. September 2000:- What exciting times we have! All week TV-news showed images of big and brave truck drivers, big and brave tractor drivers and lesser sizes of protesting ambulance drivers and driving school instructors.

Everywhere where they had set up barricades, they had also set up hospitality tents, and many scenes were shown of sausages being grilled, cards being played, and drivers in their trucks listening to the radio news.

Meanwhile in narrow-shouldered Paris, harassed politicians issued brave announcements of solutions to the crises - which were immediately scoffed at by the big men on the barricades; who kept the oil refineries locked up tight.

After many all-night bargaining sessions, new deals would be announced. Then TV would show clips of big and brave truck drivers - and of the truck owners, frenzied with pocket calculators - and the unionized truckers would say, "I don't know when we're going to lift the barricades; the rank and file must be consulted."

Luckily, in these times everybody except me has a portable phone, so surveys of the 'rank and file' are swift. Day after day, the answer was 'no.'

Weekend oblige - on Friday 'no' switched to 'yes' and France's entire rank and file has been allowed to have a nearly normal weekend.

However, France's professional fuel users have dropped a heavy rock in the pond, and its ripples are spreading - throughout Europe.

Café Life

Friday night's free cow feast for the launch of 'L'Art Dans le Monde 2000' has started me thinking about old Rome's methods of keeping its citizens content - if not actually content; then not openly rebellious - with bread and circuses.

I guess 'art' in Paris is a big business of sorts. I doubt very much whether it approaches the threads or the perfume industries for sheer volume, but it must amount to something.

Friday's 'vernissage' - and I am not - not yet! - a connoisseur of these affairs, was a really big eventphoto: fetes de seine, ile st louis along the lines of a 'free lunch' - not launch! - for the Paris 'art' crowd. All that food; all that booze - and the crowd that seemed so eager for it.

Fêtes de la Seine scene: tugboat Triton smokestack, bateau 'mouche' and the tip of the Ile Saint-Louis.

However, I have been mistaken if I have lumped the art show in with the city's 'Fêtes de la Seine' weekend - although it is in the program. According to the program, the 'Fêtes' kicked off at 8:00 on Friday with two events.

These were the opening of the Square René Vivandi, with the car sculptures of Romy - his 'Métaformes Véhiculaires;' and the 'Journées de la Peinture' at the Square Jean XXIII - which is the park at the rear of Notre Dame.

In all, the weekend totalled 33 events - cultural, touristic, sporting and festive - located on or near the Seine; from the Pont de Tolbiac in the east to the Parc André Citröen in the west. Not included, was Paris 2nd Open Golf tournament, which was played all over Paris on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday's events started at 9:00 and Sunday's began at 8:00. Both Friday and Saturday nights officially ended with fireworks shows at Trocadéro and at Bercy. It's not impossible to imagine that a long 'after' happened at the Batofar lightship-cum-cabaret across from Bercy.

As you probably know I am a bit short-handed. I hit the 'art' late on Friday, skipped the golf, and only got to the river festival when the afternoon was a bit advanced yesterday.

What I did do, was pick the weather for it. Even though it is September, I think I can now say Paris has had four summer days this year.

I went to the Port Saint-Bernard, which is a bit hard to find unless you know it is between the Pont d'Austerlitz and Pont de Sully. I had to look it up, because it usually called the Square Tino Rossi or the open-air Musée de Sculpture.

The first thing I noticed was the Quai Saint-Bernard roadway was absolutely jammed with cars. Either everybody had tanked up somehow; but I rather believe everybody had been hoarding - and with the lifting of the blockades, they just had to have their 'fix' of traffic.

The riverside was about the same. And it wasn't helped by barricades around various sets ofphoto: fetes de seine, spectators performances; that forced strollers on to a narrow, unpaved sidewalk beside all the idling traffic - to proceed 'along' the riverside.

The Pont de Sully in the foreground, with Notre Dame in the distance - and a lot of Seine 'fêtards' in between.

The attraction at the Port Saint-Bernard was the two tugboats, brought upriver from Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. These were the 'Triton 25' and the 'Jacques,' one of the oldest river tugboats, built in 1904.

Between the stone banks of the Seine and the roadways, there were countless other exhibition tents for all sorts of activities - old speedboats, river fishing demos, 'floating' markets of the South-West.

The quays beyond the Pont de Sully were jam-packed; until it finally seemed wise to climb up to the road level. Opposite Notre-Dame I remembered Romy and his 'sculptures' in the Square René Vivandi. These turned out to be about five cars, painted all over in primary colors, pointing at the sky.

Further west, in the Ile de la Cité's Square du Vert Galant, residents seemed to have been left to make up their own Sunday; in its beautiful weather.

They had a pretty good view of a lot of activity on the Pont des Arts, where there was a bridge-long atelier for painting. Both railings were hung with still-wet fresh works, from one end of the bridge to the other.

And with that, I finished my Fête de la Seine. Going up the Rue de Seine, it occurred to me that it wasn't part of the big show. It fact, most of its galleries were closed, and the streets were nearly bare of any traffic.


After last week's visit to Chez Omar, where I didn't have any couscous, I expected readers to bombard me with questions about it. You didn't. All the same, for starters, couscous is not a miss-spellingphoto: fetes de seine, venice for the German word for 'kiss-kiss.'

Couscous is finely-ground wheat meal - or semolina - mixed with salted water. When made at home by hand, the wheat meal is laboriously rubbed until all the grains are evenly moistened.

Yet another signal that Parisians desperately want a carnival of their own.

Then it is steamed in a colander over boiling water, before coming to the table. It is usually topped with meat such as chicken or lamb when it is a main dish, and is served somewhat like spaghetti.

This cereal is a mainstay throughout all of North Africa, from the Atlantic to the Nile. It is also eaten as a sweet, when sprinkled with sugar, and sometimes topped with peanuts.

Metropole's Services

All three of the firms mentioned below have chosen Metropole Paris for affiliate association. They have figured out who you may be, and what you may possibly want or need.

These firms are not advertisers in the traditional sense. If you patronize the services or purchase the products offered, the benefits resulting from the links will help Metropole to stay online.

Health Care In Paris

After planning your visit to Paris long in advance and then finally getting here, the worst thing to happen is coming down with some kind of 'bug.' HighwayToHealth offers a service that allows you to seek medical aid here almost as easily as if you were at home.

HighwayToHealth has fashioned a 'city health profile' for Paris, which can give you information about local health services, including the ability to make appointments for health care.

Added to this is a full line of travel insurance. You can take care of this before you leave home, so be sure to check out all of the 'HighwayToHealth' services for travellers.

Air Freight Your Boules Home

The game of pétanque - or boules - can be played anywhere, almost anytime, by nearly everybody. Any old bit of ground can be used as a playing field - as you might know if you've seen the game played around Paris.

Regular boules are made out of metal. You can buy these in France, but they are a bit heavy to carry around in your baggage. 'Petanque America' imports France's Obut boules and can ship them to you anywhere in the Americas.

Petanque America's online shop also has boules for children, plus books about the game and its short list of rules. Get Petanque America to do the heavy work for you while you shop around for scarves as light as feathers and other bijoux.

Paris Hotel Online Reservations

'Bookings' Paris hotel reservation service permits you to get a preview of hotels in Paris, enabling you to choose your Paris accommodations easily, well in advance of your arrival.

The Café Metropole Club's 49th Meeting

The server-lady Linda Thalman was the only member of anyphoto: rue du pot de fer 17? category at last Thursday's club meeting. We had a chat of no consequence; so I filled up the bulk of the 'report' with the latest news about France's fuel crises.

If you skipped Thursday's update, you didn't miss all the wonderful 'Quotes of the Week' that remained unsaid. The 'report' therefore contains little, and most of it is 'old' news now.

New readers can look at the fairly new 'About the Club' page, if they are interested in learning more about this magazine's club for readers in Paris. Anybody is allowed to look at it actually.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 4.37 - 13. Sept. 1999 - This week's Café Metropole column was headlined, 'Between Waves.' The 'Au Bistro' column's title was 'José Bové Freed!' This issue had two features, titled 'La Hôpital Saint-Louis' and 'The Canal Saint-Martin.' The 'Scene' column was headlined 'Paris Pumps Up the Volume' and was accompanied with '2000 In Paris - No Wheels In Corcorde's Sky.' Therephoto: rue neuve ste genevieve were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Pedal Day - Coming Soon.'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 3.37 - 14. September 1998 - The week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'Blowin' In the Cold Wind.' The 'Au Bistro' column's title asked 'Is Johnny Really 'Live?'' This issue had two features, titled 'Who's Afraid of the Institut de France?' and 'Higher, Further, Faster - The Balloon Race That Wasn't.' There were four new 'Posters of the Week' again and Ric's Cartoon of the Week had the caption of 'We Can See the Tower!' This year; it's gas pumps.

Metropole Paris' Exclusive Solo Countdown to 31. December 2000:

This countdown - which was suspended for the duration of August - remains suspended in September. If you are reading this, you won't understand this at all. If you aren't reading this, you shouldn't care be because it's short.

For those who are still confused, there really are only about 111 days left to go until the 3rd Millennium. For really picky readers, this figure is on target. On account of this section being kind of turned off on account of August, and now September too, you probably won't care that 256 days have gone since New Year's 2000.
signature, regards, ric

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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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