Countdown To Heat On

photo: cafe le bizuth, st germain

Not all cafés in the Quartier Latin have heated terraces because students are impervious to cold.

Eagerly Awaited - Winter

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 2. October 2000:- Northwest winds are blowing through Paris and they are dragging rain-heavy clouds down from the North Atlantic with them. It is damp, chilly and past time for my central heating to be turned on.

Pigeons outside must feel the same way because they are tapping on my windows, trying to get in. How little they know.

My 'modern' 1906-style apartment is fully rigged for naturally air-conditioned heat-wave days in summer, but is a good substitute for a freezer when there are no heat-waves. During an average year in Paris there are 2.5 heat-wave days, but in 2000 there were none.

Year after year I put on winter woollies - sometimes in August! - for at least two weeks before the heat comes on. I wish I could remember when this is supposed to be. Judging by this year, my woollies might be worn out long before winter even arrives.

I remember last year, almost swooning in relief when I heard the pipes start to crackle and clank, as warm water caused them to flex after a summer's layoff.

photo: little red car of the week'Swooning' is a sappy word I wouldn't normally use, but last year was critical because I didn't know whether my radiators were just decor or whether they worked. They did, and the memory of it is making the waiting for heat harder this year.

This car may have been a star at the auto salon in Paris - in the 1950's.

You are supposed to understand that I am not moaning about this because my toes are blue. 'Between the lines' you are supposed to get the idea that, at least for today, the weather is in a November-mode.

From which you are also supposed to grasp that you should be fairly well-dressed if you want to be comfortable outside. As you go around Paris, you will find that there can be a vast difference between being out on the streets and being, for example, underground in the warm métro.

The same applies to the difference between being outside and being in museums or shops. Whatever you wear, it should be easy to take off. Heated museums usually have coat-checking facilities, but shops seldom do.

Most restaurants and many cafés set themselves up to be comfortable in chilly weather. Many outdoor café terraces are even heated, although I must say I've never really tried these out - to find out if they aren't like sitting around campfires; warm on one side and freezing on the other.

I see from the dateline that we are in October. Right at this moment my radiators are still in their summer slumber. I hope they wake up by tonight.

Café Life

Tuesday had weather that was so pleasant that it was impossible to stay inside and recuperate from doing Metropole's weekly issue. I walked down to Montparnasse, through the cemetery, because I wanted to see its moulin.

I didn't know the cemetery had one until I saw photos of it at the photo exhibition last week. There is no windmill part to it, but it certainly is a moulin. I don't know what its primary purpose is, but its sunny side is a good and tranquil place for sitting in the sun.

Since this spot was occupied I kept walking and took in some of the cemetery's interesting features. There is a map for the place if you really want to do a tour of its famous inhabitants' plots, but I just use it as an occasional shortcut.

Another thing I wanted to see was the Roger Pic photo expo at the Chemin du Montparnasse. Being Tuesday, it was closed but its courtyard was open, and it included photo blowups from the exhibition hanging above it.

The light was just right, the vine-covered artists' ateliers were just right, and the free 'closed' show was possibly just as good as the closed show inside the gallery. It was worth the walk.

By Wednesday, the weather had changed to leaden overcast, with more threat of rain than much of it getting close to the ground. Since I had been asked if I knew the curious umbrella shop run by Madame Gely on the Boulevard Saint-Germain, I went by it.

The shop is old and quaint and very tiny inside. With the threatening weather it was also full of serious clients for umbrellas, so I didn't bother barging in to ask a lot of silly questions.

The shop is located at 218. Boulevard Saint-Germain. If you think you might overlook it, it is right beside aphoto: gely umbrella shop colorful gas station. It has 'parapluies, ombrelles and cannes' - which are a great variety of walking sticks and canes.

After three or four clients are inside, there is plenty of standing room on the sidewalk outside. While I was there, several people arrived who already had umbrellas, which are handy for have for the outside waiting.

Possibly due to a fairly recent tax-break, a lot of ordinary building fronts are currently being renovated in Paris. It seems as if every street is encumbered with scaffolding constructions, including my own which has two jobs underway.

These add to the dodge-'em nature of strolling in Paris, and since a lot of the renovations are done by using high-pressure something, there is a lot of noise too and occasionally, small floods.

Café Life was not hectic last week. One fellow I see occasionally told me about going out to the Longchamp racetrack at five one morning, in the hopes of seeing the horses doing their morning exercises.

Last week, 'five in the morning' was still dark and the weather was filthy too. When he arrived at the track there was no one there except a security guard. The horses hadn't arrived yet, and the guard said some of them wouldn't even turn up until the morning of the race on Sunday.

We grizzled about the state of horse racing affairs in Paris, which seems to be slumping out of control. Longchamps is a beautiful 57-hectare racetrack layout in the Bois de Boulogne, and on a nice day when the horses are running it is one of the best places to spend an afternoon in Paris.

The weather was perfect for the big 'Prix de l'Arc' race just after 16:00. Due to the closing events of the Olympics in Sydney, the race itself received only half of its usual 30-second TV-news report. The Aga Khan's three-year old Irish horse Sinndar won the 2400 metre sprint, as it was expected to.

This 79th edition of the 'Prix de l'Arc' only had ten starters, which made it ineligible for the riskier types of combo tickets such as the Quinté, Quartre and possibly, the Tiercé.

The French are not overly extravagant bettors; they are in 7th place worldwide - after the Swedes! - and they wager 16 times less on the ponies than the true track fanatics of Hong Kong.

Metropole's Services

The three firms mentioned below chose Metropole Paris for affiliate association for the same reasons as you've chosen to read it, so you have something in common.

Affiliation is not advertising in the traditional sense. If you sign up for the services or buy the products offered, the modest benefits resulting from your actions will help Metropole to stay online.

Health Care In Paris

It is unlikely to happen to you, but if you arephoto: societe geographique hit by a 'bug' after anticipating your visit to Paris long in advance and then finally getting here, HighwayToHealth offers a service that allows you to seek medical aid here almost as easily as if you were at home.

If lost in Paris, ask the way at the Société Géographique.

A 'city health profile' has been created by HighwayToHealth for Paris, to give you information about local health services, including the ability to make appointments for medical services.

This is in addition to a full line of travel insurance. You can sign up for all of this before you leave home. Be sure to check out all of the 'HighwayToHealth' services for travellers.

Pétanque In America

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

Regulation boules are made out of metal. You can buy these in France, but they are a bit heavy to haul around in your luggage. They don't look good on the carry-on baggage radar either.

'Petanque America' imports France's quality Obut boules and can ship them to you anywhere in the Americas.

Petanque America's online shop also has books about the game and its short list of rules, plus junior boules for children. Let Petanque America to do the heavy work for you while you shop around in Paris for the less weighty things of life.

Paris Hotel Online Reservations

Long in advance is the time to use the 'Bookings' Paris hotel reservation service. Doing this will permit you to get a preview of hotels available in Paris and will enable you to choose your Paris accommodations with a minimum of fuss and bother.

The Café Metropole Club's 53rd Meeting

As you will find elsewhere in this issue, next Thursday's club meeting will celebrate the club's first year and be the first meeting of its second year. It is impossible to predict a long life for your club, but this seems to be the wish of its members, who are you.

While moving ahead there is still last Thursday's meeting to catch up on and now is the chance to do it, unless you have something else urgent to do. The club's last weekly 'report' also noted the presence of some new members, so reading it will not waste your time much.

Fairly new readers can also take a look at the fairly new 'About the Club' page. This contains mildly useful and fairly accurate information about this magazine's club for readers in Paris. Everyone lacking other important urgencies can look at it again too.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 4.40 - 4. Oct. 1999 - This week's Café Metropole column was headlined, 'In the Rain, In Montparnasse.' The 'Au Bistro' column's title was 'Paris Wine News & Walnut Time.' This issue had one feature titled 'Some Singing In the Rain.' The 'Scene' columnphoto: bugatti badge was headlined 'Walls, Vikings and Animals.' There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Come Home Papa.'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 3.40 - 5. October 1998 - The week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'Hot Cars and Cold Café.' The 'Au Bistro' column was titled, 'The Big Train Robbery.' This issue had two features, titled 'Auto Salon - Dreams Of Future Wheels' and 'Doing Saturday Stuff In Paris.' There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week had the caption of 'Honk, honk! Beep, beep!' It was the 'wierd noise' from the previous week.

Metropole's Exclusive & Solo Countdown to 31. December 2000:

This countdown - nobody cares how it got started! Again. Wiser people - they exist! - know that the 21st Century starts on Monday, 1. January 2001. Because it's a Monday, that's why. The big celebration we had - which was great! - for '2000' was just a rehersal; a tryout countdown to thephoto: auto salon ticket before-the-first second of the last year of the 20th Century. Last year's countdown was not the 'Big One.' The world didn't end, did it?

Now that everybody who wasn't wiped out by the 'End of the World' has it straight and we know exactly what we're doing. There really are only about 90 days (ten less than 100!) left to go until we arrive in the 3rd Millennium. Even if you remember the last countdown, you probably won't care that now 276 days have dribbled away since New Year's 2000. What's gone is long gone and this includes the 2nd Millennium, which is now more nearly gone than ever, for good too.
signature, regards, ric

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