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.


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