Looking for Autumn
Even on a cloudy day, this is the Luxembourg's show.
Not Finding It Matters Little
Paris:- Saturday, 21. October 2000:- I've been in places that can have a pretty distinct fall season, but it was a long time ago. I suppose it must have happened in Paris once or twice in the last 25 years, but I don't have a clear memory of it.
My street has no trees in it and since it is like a short, narrow canyon it doesn't have much sky either. I walk down to the avenue end and look at the trees on it. They have a lot of their leaves; most of them in fact.
I can't figure them out. In some light they are mostly green. When it is dim and overcast, which it is more than half the time, they are grey. There is so much traffic they should be dead of pollution and fall off, but they are hanging on.
This is what I mean about them not being fall leaves. They are survivors-of-pollution leaves. Some of the speedways along the Seine have these dead-looking leaves in late June. They just go this mushy non-color and keep hanging on.
The thing is, Paris has a lot of places to have its fall. Yesterday, really early in the morning, I was in the Tuileries. I wasn't there expecting much because the forecast wasn't optimistic. After a while, it looked like it was going to trick the forecast and it played a hint of light around; but I think it was just an empty promise.In the Tuileries, early on Friday's grey morning.
Closer, I can go over to Montsouris. But I wouldn't go there looking for fall because if it wasn't happening, then it's too far from anywhere to do something else.
Luxembourg is close too. If fall is not happening there, then there are other things to do in the Quartier Latin. As in, 'fall is off today; let's do books instead.' Or go see the students clogging the Boulevard Saint-Michel.
With it like this, the idea of going to the Bois de Boulogne or the other one at Vincennes just doesn't come up. I don't know much about either. They are relatively far away; too far to go and see leaves like the ones on the avenue at the end of my block.
Good falls are spoilers. I had a couple of weeks to kill one time on the Costa del Sol in November and somebody told me I should go up in the Sierra Nevadas because if the weather was good on the coast it would be even better up there.
I rented a little car; a red one, one number bigger than the 'Fiat 500 of the Week,' and drove up there. Away from the coast, even in the valleys running down to it, fall was happening.
The trees alongside rivers had yellow leaves and up on the sides they stood out like beacons, dotted around all the olive trees. Everything seemed to be having a light show as if the countryside was having a festival.
The higher I went, the better it got. The narrow two-lane blacktops running around the contours of the Sierras gave views across valleys, 30 kilometre views through air without dust in it; and in the views were the flaming trees. I stopped the car several times and got out to look at it.A buvette's stacked chairs waiting for later-day visitors.
That was with a sky like blue steel. Today's sky in Paris is like dull lead. Around noon it played at raining, but it hasn't amounted to much. Even the rain is half-hearted.
Well, who knows? If it switches the other way and the sun peeps out a bit and I am in the right place, maybe I can get a fall picture or two. Then I will be honest, and write that it was fall today for eight minutes between 14:33 and 14:41.
This is the reason I get on the bus and ride down to its Luxembourg stop. A lot of people are milling around outside the gardens. I think they are here like I am - they are waiting for a couple of minutes of fall.
A lot of them, while they wait, are looking at the aerial photos that are still hanging from the Luxembourg's fence. This is about what I meant about going to the Luxembourg - there's other things to do if fall fails to put in an appearance.
Inside the park there are also a lot of people, mostly in front of its palace and the big pool in front of it. Where fall might happen, in areas where there are grassy parts and varieties of trees, only a few are waiting for fall.
Even though the light isn't great, some of the trees here are really trying hard. When the normal is dim, even a brightness increase of 10 percent seems to be a big improvement, and the trees seem to be striving to do their best.
The grass is very green. Remember Antonnini painting the green English grass for 'Blow-Up' to make it greener? It is about like that; greener than it was in spring or summer.
The colors are saturated, the grass is guarding its light, holding it close to the ground. There is no sun to brighten any blade.
Other people are sitting under the trees or over on the terrace around the buvette. I should mention that it is not cold and there is nearly no wind, so sitting and waiting for a bit more illumination is not a hardship.
I guess a lot of people have taken care of their Saturday shopping and are in the park this afternoon, just to be out. If the light gets better, it will be an extra reward.A favorite spot in the Luxembourg is Marie's pond.
The area around Marie de Medicis' fountain is not as overcast with gloom as it usually is and an audience of sitters are in position to watch the contrast of the light reflections on the almost inky water, that is flecked with small leaves with the goldfish cruising underneath.
The aerial photos on the park's fence come all the way around here and there are a lot of people out on the street gazing at them. From inside the park, if you don't know how interesting these photos are, it looks like it is the park that is an irresistible attraction.
The three cafés across from the park are in various states. The one on the left is fully winterized, with transparent plastic curtains that are impossible to see out of.
The Rostand, in the centre, is open and its terrassians have a good view. The third café, right at the boulevard, has a glassed terrace, and seems the least popular.
I wander up towards the Panthéon so I can go downhill by way of Rue Cousin and maybe see something new. I see the Panthéon cinema for the first time I remember - a cinema from the days when no two were alike.
Soon enough I am at the Place de la Sorbonne. It is still filled up with its construction site - nearly at end - and all of the many cafés on its south side seem to have exactly as many tables out in the place as there are people to sit at them - hundreds.
This south side is always in the shade, so I guess an overcast day like this one means little because there is not much defined shade anyway. It is one of the Quarter Latin's biggest oasis of cafés with terraces.
The Boulevard Saint-Michel is having the afternoon part of its all-day traffic rush and its east side is having its usual people crush.
I do not feel like going further through the Saturday afternoon of this. My private busline brings one quickly and I soon get a seat on it.The Place de la Sorbonne will be returned to normal soon.
One before my regular stop I get off, to get the poster that has eluded me so far. But some good citizen has parked extremely illegally right in front of it. I can get it on Sunday, but right now I can give myself a café.
Since you can spend all other seasons in Paris in a café, it seems not to matter if fall is one of them.
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