On My Week 'Off'

photo: cafe balto, auvers

Open with sunshine, in Auvers-sur-Oise.

Open, Closed - Rain, Sunshine

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 20. August 2001:- On my 'week off,' which is not the quite the same thing as a holiday because it is only a week, I do not do what I'm supposed to do. This is supposed to be either nothing, or take care of some tedious administrative business.

Instead, I go touring around as if I'm 'on the job.' With the difference that I don't really try to keep much track of it and to the extent that full 'reports' of it are not going to appear here.

But First the Weather Report

Three weeks ago, on Wednesday, 1. August, the weather was super. A week later it was miserable, then it gradually improved every day until it was super again on Wednesday, 15. August - which closed with a tremendous summer storm, featuring wind, lightening, thunder and a big fall of rain.

This was followed by atmospheric indecision, which descended into a cool weekend. The latest forecast calls for improvement in the coming week.

It is, I guess, pretty good weather for August. It has variety and it is not boring. If it is not too sweet for a moment, it seems capable of improving itself. It could be handy to have one of the mini fold-up umbrellas - or the inclination to sit on a café terrace, to wait for improvement - which doesn't seem overly long in coming.

'Café Life'

Open / Closed In August

August in Paris requires a high degree of flexibility. If you have become tired of touring all day and decide to return to a restaurant where you had a good meal two days ago, it will be closed.

This calls for the courage to try the closest place that is still open, unless you want to spend all night touring somephoto: batobus, 15 august more. I was lucky when Dimitri told me a place on the Avenue du Maine might be good. Last winter we were worried that it might get 'fixed-up' too much.

On Wednesday, more people were waiting for the Batobus at its Hôtel de Ville stop than could board it.

Instead it got a new cook, a lot of new paint, a new awning, and a new menu. Its new lights can be avoided by sitting out on its large terrace, which can also fend off serious storms. Another thing, it has good service and good food - in August!

This morning Dimitri has found all the hardware stores around here are closed. He needs exactly one screw to fix a mirror's decor, and he is going to have to go downtown to the BHV's hardware department to get it because the mirror has to be ready to go by tomorrow.

At least, Dimitri is 'open' in August.

The Parks

Living as I do on the depths of the 14th arrondissement on the left bank, I find that the Luxembourg gardens form part of my regular path to and from the Latin Quarter. At other times I get to the gardens and go no further.

I have read somewhere that the Luxembourg is overcrowded, but it is not a small park and I have never noticed much in the way of 'platzangst' in it. So I do not avoid it.

In fact, I was even in it for one of the summer concerts, given one afternoon by some noisy Brazilians. There was a big crowd for this and a bit of anxiety about capturing one of the park's hard metal chairs, but the park has plenty of free standing-room.

Over the past two weeks there has been a lot of fine weather and I had more desire to be out in this than to be 'on tour' in museums. For a change of pace I tried the Parc Montsouris.

Its 'mountain' is not high and the France-Météo station in it does not have guided tours. It does have a lot of grass for lying around on, and other people were doing it so I tried it too. It has fine grass for sitting or lying on.

But what I failed to notice before is that it has an eastern side, beyond the RER tracks that slice through it. Here, there is more park, a little lake, a park restaurant - which is quite old and I think I've read somewhere that Lenin used to eat at it on Sundays.

There are also refreshment kiosks and a kid's playground, and a lot more people - although the western side of the park is relatively empty.

Two different routes, to and from the park, showed mostly deserted residential areas of the 14th - plainly as if it were a quiet August in Paris.

Cinema Summer

Around the corner from here, the back of the local Hôtel de Ville was transformed into a 1942 collection centre for recruiting workers for Germany, and signs appeared announcing air-raid shelters, with their capacities.

A 'flic' guarded the scene, aided by an ancient militia man. A bit further on a 2001-model Paris cop let cars filter through the street, which was flanked by film production trucks - some with German registrations.

The one-block long Rue Sivel only required slight retouches to turn it into a 1942 scene, and thisphoto: film production, on pouvait pas savoir, gerard jugnot was where shooting for Gérard Jugnot's film 'On Pouvait Pas Savior' went on for about ten days recently.

A movie's crew and actors, standing around until the director calls 'action!'

This also provided entertainment for the few inhabitants and neighborhood people left around, both during the day and on some evenings. This was very slow entertainment because mainly what happened was short and getting ready to make it happen was very long.

According to Le Parisien, which said the film is called 'Monsieur Batignole,' there are about 40 long feature films being shot in France this summer, with a large number of them on location all over Paris.

On what must have been the last night of shooting, Dimitri was distressed that the actors dressed as German soldiers had green uniforms, instead of 'feldgrau.'

He was also annoyed that, while the big camera was set up in the roadway, it was filming a scene inside the 'Batignole' shop. The screen showing the video playback of the 'rushes' was too far away for us to see it clearly.

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