The Big Yawn of the Week

photo: terrace tables, la corona

Cool terrace, cool cocktails waiting to be served -
but drivers are not tempted.

And Other Exciting Stories

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 9. July 2001:- After having a touch of wonderfully warm and sunny weather to go with Paris' late-June holiday send-off of some of its residents to relaxing places where sun is also pretty much guaranteed, events in the sky here have returned to normal.

Not normal was an extra huge dump of rain over Saturday-Sunday in northern France that caused flooding, deaths and destruction. The storm was predicted, but its intensity was several notches higher than forecasted.

The week's first-half forecast for France's northern third calls for a regular routine of clouds and some rain, and not many sunny periods. Hope can be held out for next weekend if you are generally hopeful - and since it will be the Bastille day weekend, I am going to join the hopeful.

Café Life

Stunt Driving

You can see Paris drivers doing some strange things if you aren't running for your life, but most of the time Paris traffic resembles a vast bumper-car scene, where the object is to actually avoid bumping into other items of traffic.

To do this drivers have to constantly have their wits with them and their hands on the wheel, because odd obstacles can pop up anytime - not necessarily including pedestrians - and swift evasive action may be necessary to avoid having to spend a lot of time explaining the inexplicable later.

While Parisians are not particularly shy about making strange maneuvers, it is interesting to see how quickly visiting drivers can get into the spirit of the game.

On the way to La Corona on the Quai du Louvre last Thursday, I noticed a Mercedes 'A' model parked at the curb, onphoto: jardin palais royal the café's side, with its emergency lights blinking. I thought, 'Somebody has just popped into the café to get a postage stamp or aspirin or something.'

More coolness - in the gardens of the Palais Royal.

But I was wrong. The driver was studying the play of the traffic lights 20 metres behind him, at the corner of the Quai du Louvre and the Rue de l'Amiral Coligny. When the situation seemed right, the Mercedes began to reverse slowly - against the direction of the oncoming four lanes of traffic.

He was doing this in one of these lanes, but he did it slowly and oncoming cars, trucks, vans and motorcycles effectively dodged around him - allowing him to back right into the intersection - to a position where he could turn left. This was done successfully, without undue panic and no crazed horns blazing.

The fairly new European-style license plates are identical, with the registration number in black on white, with a narrow blue stripe on one side with the country ID in it, and it is very small.

In this driver's case it was a 'D' for Germany. If things haven't changed there much, what this driver did would have caused him some sessions with a police traffic psychologist - but, as it turned out okay, doing this in Paris may have been this motorist's best memory of his visit.

Anyone for Barbecued Cheese?

Late yesterday I got a dinner invitation I couldn't refuse, partly because I was hungry, and partly because I get very few of them - last minute or otherwise. Of course, time away from 'Ed's' office on Sunday night gets tacked on to 'Ed' being in the same office much later than he wants to be on Monday.

The location was a nearby private second floor terrace, possibly larger than the apartment it is attached to. Having a place suitable for barbecues in rare in Paris and having barbecued ribs is rare for me.

Even rarer still was the hostess' notionphoto: barbeque terrace of tossing a whole wooden-boxed wheel of Camembert into the still hot charcoal, and burying it good. The rest of our small party watched.

What you don't see from the street, or even from the courtyard - the moon and birds see.

We watched carefully. It is not every day you get to see a thing like this, and if you haven't seen it done before - well, it is like a first footstep on the moon. There's only going to be one 'first' time.

After a length of time neither short nor long, the Camembert was uncovered, with its wooden container looking like a big overdone and burnt marshmallow.

The tricky part was picking and peeling away the black-charred box, which eventually revealed a fondue-like thick Camembert soup. Into this we dipped pieces of baguette, and it was good. This 'Camembert sous la braise' was worth what I'll be paying for it tonight.

Europhoria or Europhobia?

I have been asking around to get an idea of how much of a shortage of coins for change there is going to be before the floodgates are opened on 1. January 2002 and we are doused with our new euros, and the necessary coins that go with them.

It is not unusual to see signs at cashiers appearing now, asking for payment with cheques or credit cards - because the Banque de France is not putting new coins into circulation, and is withdrawing coins so that it doesn't have to do it all at once during the evening between 31. December and 1. January 2002.

All the same, I was quite startled last week to hear, in a place where there are many visitors, a counter-lady say, "Euros? What a mess! We should switch to dollars and get it over with, once and for all, for everybody, for ever!"

Is It 'True' What They Say About Paris?

This issue contains the first installment of 'Is It True' even if I haven't quite figured out what it is yet. On one hand there are notions about the French and France, about Paris and Parisians - that may have been somewhat accurate at one time, but no longer are - but these false notions persist.

On the other hand simple mistakes are made - and published - about some fairly common things or practices. If these are read and believed by those not familiar with the way things are here, then the unwary might be confused about local behavior.

One of the reasons for visiting Paris is because it is not 'like at home.' It is not this way to expressly to cause you problems, even if it does cause problems for residents as wellphoto: paris tourist office, champs elysees as confusion for visitors. Basically, Paris supposed to be different. If it wasn't, you wouldn't be getting your money's worth.

Is it true? - Just ask at Paris' Tourist Office on the Champs- Elysées and you can find out more than you need to know.

There is a certain 'French logic' behind the way many things are, but this often confuses Parisians too, and they will freely admit it. All that 'Is It True?' will do is try to distinguish between the normal illogic and obvious mis-information.

For sending in 'finds,' as with the occasional Email features, you will be given credit for your eagle-eyes. The only 'fact' I will require is the name of the source, if you have it. If you don't have one, then the item will go into a subsection with the title of 'Is It a True Rumor?'

No New Metropole Photos for You

While 'Ed's' new monitor got tuned in - to probably be as good as it will get, last week's weather conspired against getting any superior photos - so no new ones are offered this week.

The offer of new Metropole's large-size photos therefore walks on the spot where it was some weeks ago, while this link to the photos on the last offered photo / image page continues as a carry-over.

In theory - and getting more theoretical - each week one or two 'best' photos - or a cartoon - will be shown on this page. The large versions of these images are for sale. If you see another one you like in any issue since last summer, ask for it instead.

More details are on the most recent 'Photo' page to appear in Metropole. Check it out. Any suggestions, advice and comments, will be welcome.

'Au Bistro' Column On Holiday

I have wasted 21 francs on buying newspapers that I haven't had time to read, and my TV-news time disappearedphoto: roue libre bus down some black hole. I also make notes on odd scraps of paper and then I forget to look at them until the average edition of Metropole is online.

One of bike-rental 'Roue Libre's' buses parked at Concorde on Sunday.

This should hint to you that I have good intentions, but my flesh has grown weak on account of it being summer - in theory - and I [yawn] would like to get laid back, take my shoes off and walk on the grass - which is, by the way, more and more possible on the bits of it that belong to Paris.

Instead of reading this you should come over here, buy some newspapers and sit down on some nice grass and read them yourselves.

Café Metropole Club 'Updates'

Your club's meeting last Thursday had a big surprise for the secretary. I was settling in for another no-show meeting when an original 'charter' member walked in to La Corona after a 15 month stint of 'bourgeois life' in Versailles, which was not so tiresome as you may imagine.

Even if you should be cutting the grass, you can still read this exciting 'report' about the club's meeting anyway, while your lawn quietly grows a tiny bit more.

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 12. July 2001. This day will be significant because it will be the first club day in 2001 on which Saint-Olivier's Day will be celebrated, without however, a full moon.

Metropole readers and all to-be club members are urged take a glance at the current version of 'About the Club,' which is handy for finding out about the club's raison d'être, its meeting time and location and so on, and other lesser facts such as being free - except for your own drinks' tab - which actually only applies if you attend a club meeting in person.

This page also contains expired rules about this club in Paris - and includes its still valid location map - for you, who are either 'Metropole Paris' readers, Café Metropole Club members - or are in Paris for any reason or no particular reason at all.

Metropole's Affiliates

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

'Bookings' has a reservation service for a wide selection of Paris hotels. Check out their offers and make your choice long before your arrival in France.

'HighwayToHealth' provides a 'city health profile' as well as travel insurance for potential Paris visitors. If you've signed up for these services before you need them suddenly you will benefit from them. 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 the effort of carrying them all the way from Paris. Be the first on your block to introduce the game of pétanque - or boules. Nearly everybody can play this game, nearly anywhere.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 5.27/8 - 3/10. July 2000 - This week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'It'll Be a Picnic.' The 'Au Bistro' column took a week off. This issue had no features on account of 'Ed's' holiday. The Café Metropole Club's weekly update on 6. July featured nothing because 'Ed' was on holidays, which you already know. But a club feature was called 'Huge Success of the Week.' The 'Scene' column's title was 'Parisphoto: sign, quai d'orsay Eté 2000.' There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned 'The 'New' World.' This was probably about potatos.

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago:

Issue 4.28/29 - 12/19. July 1999 - The week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'Goodbye and Hello To All This.' The 'Au Bistro' column was titled, 'I'd Walk a Mile for a Baguette.' This issue had no features, due to moving the office into Paris. The 'Scene' column was titled, 'The Last 'Armada du Siècle.' There were also the usual four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week had the caption of 'Bastille Day Every Day.'

The 'Count-Up/Down' - Version 28

If you can remember what this was about, please write to me to let me know. It all got started during the extra-long 'count-down' to the year 2000. Now that this is long past, and 99 years is too long for a 'count-down' to 2100 - this little feature has been trying out various other 'count-down' subjects.

Since the beginning of the year there has been a half-dozen of them, but none seems to have sparked much general interest. The server-lady Linda Thalman even suggested a 'count-back' to the time that the Romans arrived in Paris in 51 or 52 BC, but nobody seems to be able to figure out how many days ago this was on account of calendar changes, leap years.and the 'Soldes d'Eté.'

At the moment the only thing going on here is the 'count-down' to the introduction of the 'euro' - the new European-wide mono-currency - that is putting most Europeans to sleep when they think about it.

The 'euro' currency introduction day will be on Tuesday, 1. January 2002 at 00:01 and not even onephoto: refroidissement de la planete, perrier minute before - so you can forget about buying a Carte Orange transit ticket with euros for another 5.62 months, even through the RATP has said its two-zone one will cost 44,35 'e.'

Perrier - 'C'est fou!' Truth in advertising compels me to tell you this photo was shot last January on a Thursday in Minsk.

This 'e' is not right, but I don't have it in any type font except a 'euro' font that I don't think the WorldWideWeb recognizes. Or maybe it does and I should look it up.

[Yawn. Again.] The number of days remaining this year is 175. This means you still have about 204 days left before you should trade in your 'only-in-Europe' change purse full of dull and old FF's for a lesser-sized handful of brand-new colorful 'euros.'

For those wishing to know more about future European-style money, you can take a look at the French government's 'Euro' Web site for clear and succinct information about everything except where to get regular French-franc coins right now.

Nearly everything for sale here already carries 'euro' and franc amounts on the price stickers. Only after the end of this year will the prices go up while numbers come down.
signature, regards, ric

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