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 crop of 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.

If this page does not appear, it probably means there is no suitable 'best photo of the week.'

The Louvre's double or triple-file line on Sunday.

As this project starts out it is doing so without impersonal 'Internet-robots' to handle the transaction. This means that the process depends on personal emails. This also makes sense because I've taken the photos with you in mind.

More details are on this week's 'Photo' page. Check it out. Any suggestions, advice and comments will be welcome.

Café Metropole Club 'Updates'

Last Thursday's club meeting marked a return to calm with exactly one new member, which was a relaxing change. Maybe the jumbos-loads of visitors are no longer arriving in Paris, due to a hiccup in fuel prices.

Two other existing members put in appearances too. You should read the 'report' to find out how this cozy meeting was handled by the club's secretary - since in theory he has so much spare time on his hands.

Keep up with your club's doings by checking the 'report' of the last meeting. It's details may seem no more detailed than usual and this was entirely the secretary's doing, with the help of members.

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 5. April 2001. As is now routine, this particular meeting will only happen once. If you miss it, it means you can try again a week later.

All readers and prospective club members may also wish to take a look at the prehistoric but current version of 'About the Club,' which is useful for learning out about the club's reason-for-being, its meeting time and location.

This page also contains lesser but vital 'facts' about this free club in Paris, which is the only one this magazine has for all of its readers who are either 'Metropole Paris' readers or Café Metropole Club members, or are in Paris for any reason or no reason in particular at all. If you do not fall into any these categories, come anyway with your 'City of the Week.'

Metropole's Affiliates

The following product or service providers have chosen Metropole because their offers may be of value to readers and I agree with them.

'Bookings' has aphoto: fiat 500 reservation service for a selection of Paris hotels. Check out their offer and make your choice long before your arrival in France.

A 'good' week has a Fiat 500 in it. Here's last week's.

'HighwayToHealth' provides a 'city health profile' as well as travel insurance for potential Paris visitors. These services will be a real benefit if you've signed up for them before you need them suddenly. I hope won't be the case but you can never tell.

'Petanque America' imports quality Obut boules from France and will ship them to you anywhere in the Americas - which will save you from carrying them all the way from Paris. Be the first in your neighborhood to introduce the game of pétanque - or boules. No particular expertise is necessary.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 5.14 - 3. April 2000 - This week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'Really 'Real' Signs of Spring.' The 'Au Bistro' column's title was 'Mitterrand's Revenge!' This issue had one feature, titled ''Arts et Métiers' Re-Opens After 10 Years.' The Café Metropole Club began its endless self-congratulation with 'Your Thriving Club In Paris.' The club's weekly update on 6. April screamed, 'New Member Fromphoto: wall design, mr chocolat Brooklyn!' The 'Scene' column's title was 'Don't Let the Future Stop You.' There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'Steam Is Better Than Wind.'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 4.14 - 5. April 1999 - The week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'Surprise Easter In Paris.' The 'Au Bistro' column was titled, 'Lost' News Isn't Here.' This issue' had two features, 'Not Finding Paris' Oldest Tree' and 'Model Salon: On Land, On Sea, In the Air: In Scale.' The 'Scene' column was titled, 'When in Rome, Do Paris.' There were also the usual four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week had the caption of 'No 10,000 Lira Notes Please' No Euros yet either.

The 'Count-Up' - Part 14.5

Metropole reader George Broadhead claims his own long-past and distant relative, Joel Barlow, visited France for the first time on Tuesday, 24. June 1788.

George writes, "He was the poet who wrote 'Hasty Pudding,' and who also had a degree in law. He was named European agent for a land company which sold wilderness lands in America to Frenchmen.

"By 1789, the first shipload of settlers was preparing to leave France and members of wealthy French families, noblemen and members of the National Assembly were also buying land from him. The land deals turned sour in time, but Barlow was established enough in Paris to be named an honorary citizen of France in the winter of 1791-92. He declined an invitation to assist the US government's investigations into the real estate hanky-panky.

"In 1793 he published a new and corrected edition of his long poem, 'The Vision of Columbus' in Paris. In 1797, he adopted Robert Fulton as a 'protege' and member of his household.

"Barlow would leave and return to France on many occasions, and ultimately die in Poland during Napoléon's retreat from Moscow. At that time, he wrote of seeing platoons of French soldier's frozen in place."

With this exciting news, Metropole's postmillennial 'count-up' bounces back to vivid life. This widely popular feature, beloved by me and the server-lady - and now George Broadhead too - will overshadow the sad fate of our new count-up champion.

The new count-up date is now Tuesday, 24. June 1788, which is about 12 years and one month less long ago than the old date. With a short stub of a pencil I calculate that the 'count-up' now totals 77,752 glorious days - since Joel Barlow arrived in Paris and began shipping wine and turbans back to Dolly Madison.

According to George he may have been doing a little free-lance spying too. I'll skip the part about him having a continental breakfast with croissants near the Ecole Militaire in Paris.
signature, regards, ric

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