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photo: cafe la cour de rome

On Sunday near Saint-Lazare, a café dressed up with
nowhere to go.

Don't Stay Tuned

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 9. April 2001:- Now that the official day of 'spring' has been cashed in, just over a week ago, we return to the regular program of rain every 45 minutes. If I heard the TV-news right, the rain has already set a record going back 108 years.

Or was it 118 years? Was it for the first week of April, or since the beginning of the year? Whichever it was, is, you need a hat or an umbrella, maybe a raincoat, maybe a wetsuit. You need a love of rain too, because it's impossible to stay inside all the time.

Café Life

My First Paris Marathon

The TV-weather news people went all out last week to make Sunday's marathon a big success. From Wednesday on, each night's mini-range forecast invariably showed Sunday being a day with sunballs behind spacy clouds.

On Thursday or Friday I think the weather people might have shown the sunballs in front of the clouds. At any rate the clouds were individual puffs, so I got the impression that even if they blotted out the sun entirely, it would only be for minutes at a time.

I didn't fail to notice that both Saturday and Monday had Sunday bracketed with solid clouds, but I wanted to believe in Sunday's forecast. After all, it was the marathon's 25th birthday in Paris - and mine too.

The problem for this 'Internet Reporter for Paris' - how to effectively 'cover' a 42-kilometre race? This problem is faced with nearly every sporting event, except boules - which are seldom played in the rain and seldom before noon in any case.

Careful planning told me that the race would have to be covered from one spot, or two at the most. The first spot, I immediately chose as being in the Tuileries, on the raised part in front of the Jeu de Paume. There is a pretty good view of Concorde from there - enough to see the runners come out of the Champs-Elyséesphoto: from ils st louis, to ile de la cite and turn into the Rue de Rivoli.

Start-off time for the 'Handisports' people on wheels - 8:50, and 9:00 for the other 28,000-odd sportspeople. Estimated time to get to my lookout - 15 minutes.

On Sunday afternoon, the sky started to get lighter.

I figured out the time I would have to get there in advance of everybody else to be able to get clear photos, and from this, the time to set for the alarmclock. While setting the clock, I could hear rain falling outside in my courtyard like frozen peas. I added 90 minutes to the calculated time.

When the alarm went off I could still hear rain pinging off the bicycles, garbage cans and railings in the courtyard. The best place to 'cover' the marathon, I thought, might be in front of my TV.

When I turned it on, it was broadcasting raindrops on the TV camera lenses. The announcer said, 'excuse us for the slight technical failure to broadcast the beginning of the marathon.'

Except for some video errors, the rest of the marathon went pretty well from my viewpoint, which was both warm and dry. The winners of the marathon come from a country which is warm and dry, but I understand that they do some training where it can be cold, high and wet - perfect for a marathon in Paris.

Since some marathoners were expected to be a little less than four hours behind the top finishers, I went out to look for them under very grey skies. I saw two ex-marathoners, wrapped in silver cooking foil, a long way from the official route and looking lost.

If there is a law of averages, someday there will be a marathon in Paris in beautiful spring weather. There may have already been one. If it was recently, it might be a long time until the next one. The sun started to peek out around 15:00, but it was very feeble.

Remembering Hemingway

There are some people who can't get enough Paris and if it is a Paris with anything to do with Ernest Hemingway, then it is a double treat. In this issue you will find an excerpt from Robert F. Burgess' recently published book, 'Hemingway's Paris and Pamplona, Then and Now.'

As Mr. Burgess puts it, "My book focuses on his early and best years there, then later looks at what remains of his heritage today. The book was not written for academics - who know him inside out already - but for the reader who relishes the time and the events that led to himphoto: spring, rue bucherie doing what he did. Having been with him myself during his last Pamplona fiesta adds other new angles, especially photographically."

Spring makes a tentative appearance in the Rue de la Bucherie.

When you read his 'Echoes Along the Seine,' it will be obvious that Mr. Burgess knows about Paris too - and the Seine, and fishing. He is as dubious as I am about eating the fish, and was surprised to learn that a fishing contest and teaching kids how to do it were attractions at last September's 'Fêtes de la Seine.'

About the 'Fiat 500 of the Week'

Some doubts has been expressed about the honor I bestow on the Fiat 500's I happen to see running around the streets of Paris. Some people even claim they are not rare at all and deserve no fame.

One explanation for their existence is that when they were made - about 30 to 40 years ago - they were the only Fiats imported to France. Then I point out all that Fiats of that age were known as rustbuckets and Paris doesn't have a climate like southern Spain's.

Some people say that they were so cheap, that they've been hidden in air-conditioned garages for 20 to 30 years - and saved for road use today. Other people say they were made by the millions, so it's only some sort of 'law of averages' that some still exist in Paris.

These theories are all bushwah. While you do see some 30 or 40 year-old 2CV's on the streets, these are few and are supported by an extensive number of 2CV fanatics, who have hoarded spare parts and fix-it expertise.

All the other cars - the millions of Renaults, Peugeots, Simcas - have disappeared, leaving only some rare and hardy VW's - and the Fiat 500, which was rarer than a new Beetle was, and nowhere near as hardy.

When I think it over, the air-conditioned-garage theory seems like the oly logical explanation for them.


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