Springtime for Museums

photo: les deux musees

Non-stop, free-entry museums visitors, stopping.

On a Paris Sunday

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 2. April 2001:- To find 'spring' on the Loire at Blois a couple of weeks ago I didn't have any forecast to go by. I just thought being on the Loire would be the right place to be if spring did happen to show up. On Wednesday, 21. March it didn't.

There is the Easter Bunny, Halloween and Santa Claus, and you can believe in them without ever believing a weather forecast. For some reason, around last Wednesday, my skepticism eased off enough to allow me to believe in spring's arrival here yesterday - and it was a bingo!

The rest of the coming week calls for back to normal, but today - I have taken more than one good look at the sky. The first rated 95 percent. By noon, which is 13:00 Paris time, I revised this upward to 97.5 percent. Clear, blue, right up to the top.

A rating this high is very rare. It is not expected to last, but for the short time it does, it serves as a reference for other bright and clear days. At the very least it will now be possible to say that Paris has had at least a partial 97.5 percent day in 2001 - even if it is the only one for the next several years.

Along with this marvel it is also warm. A high of 21 C - about 70 degrees on the pounds and ounces scale - has been forecast, and judging by conditions at noon, it is going to be really real. The rest of the week should settle back to highs of around 15 C.

Café Life

Spring for Museums

For the third year in a row, yesterday was the day when Europe threw open its museum doors for free entries. In Paris this 'freebie' conflicted with the first day of spring weather. I decided to abandon 'Café Life' earlier in the week and do a sort of two-for-one tour yesterday.

A complicating factor was the Seine still being considerably in flood. Even if the closing of the Seine-sidephoto: musee d'orsay speedways on Sundays has not started yet, they are under water so all the traffic is on the regular quays - and yesterday there was a lot of it.

The Musée d'Orsay's thick lines and double-parkers yesterday.

This may have been aggravated by the semi-ongoing SNCF strikes - 'No trains today? What a great day to drive around in Paris!' - or simply by the agreeable weather - 'What great weather for driving around in Paris on a Sunday!'

The Musée d'Orsay has a temporary main entrance on the Quai Anatole France, and it looked like a Broadway opening in broad daylight - lacking only Yellow Cabs and searchlights.

Near the museum the Pont de Solférino offers a shortcut to the right bank, although the entry to the Tuileries is not complete. This foot bridge has a lower deck on both sides of the river, and both of these were under water, not quite reaching underwater shores.

On the Quai des Tuileries side it was necessary to either go west to Concorde or east to the Avenue du Général Lemonnier to get into the garden. The quay itself was one endless traffic jam.

Peniches tied up along here can only be reached with ladder contraptions going over the quay walls, and various sorts of fragile-looking plank walks to the barges. Some people were taking advantage of the weather to have picnics on their decks.

The large Place de la Concorde was being traversed by an irregular army of strollers, passing in both directions to and between the Champs-Elysées and the Tuileries - or between the Louvre and the Grand Palais.

Inside the gardens many more people than I've seen before were giving the museums a miss and the spring a hit. Some of these turned out to be Café Metropole Club member Chris Landry from Baton Rouge with some friends - who spotted me while I was gazing about at the sky.

Chris made the mistake of confirming next Thursday's club meeting date. Now I'm sure I'll have to remember her forever as 'Sunday in the Tuileries' - on the theory that anybody who says they are coming to a meeting, doesn't.

Chairs around the basins were full, and all the chairs in all the garden buvettes were the same. Only the grass was free of visitors and Parisian hordes.

The vast space of the Louvre's interior Cour Napoléon seemed almost empty except for the nearly straight line of folks that trailed back from the Pyramid entry, went up some stairs and continued under cover down the Louvre's Mollien gallery towards the Porte Denon.

The advantage of being at the end of this line was the agreeable view of the Cour Napoléon and the head of the line. Some people immediately realized that a line disappearing under cover was not an especially good sign and abandoned the wait.

From the Pont du Carrousel people strolling across the Pont des Arts seemed like an army of ants, with the Ile de la Cité for a background.

I went up the Rue des Saints-Pères and cut across on the Rue Jacob to Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Again, the boulevard was polluted with masses driving in cars, instead of sitting on any of the several café terraces - which were showing no empty seats.

By this time the sun from the Rue de Rennes was just quitting the terrace of the Deux Magots, but still spraying itself all over the terrace of the Café de Flore. Winter's dust had been wiped off sunglasses, but the famous were disguised by not wearing theirs.

And at the curb beside the Deux Magots, perhaps Paris' one and only, original Checker taxi - in its original spring-like color of yellow, for today's one-of-a-kind spring-like day.

Daylight fans may also be interested to know that sunrise in Paris is about 7:30 and sunset is at 20:20 these days, with three or four minutes being added daily.

I imagine that as soon as the Seine's flood levels drop back to normal, the Sunday closings of the river's speedways will resume - which will allow strolling, biking, or rollering through the centre of Paris. It can't be too soon.

It is too early to know what plans the new city hall crew may have for traffic circulation in Paris on Sundays. A new Prefect is waiting to take over as well, so there may be some fundamental changes to come.

Metropole Offers Its Photos

The offer of Metropole's large-format photos continues with a new photo / image page , which is included in this issue.

In general, one or two 'best' photos - or a cartoon - will be offered each week. Many of Metropole's weeklyphoto: free entry line, louvre cropof other photos will match the 'best' one for interest and quality. If these are not specifically 'offered,' it does not mean that they are not available.

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