The Last Day of Fall

photo: snoozers, paper readers, in luxembourg, wednesday

Even on momentous days - some people prefer
to sleep through them.

As Predicted - But Maybe Not 'Last'

Paris:- Wednesday, 17. October 2001:- Before you invest any of your valuable time reading this, you should know it isn't about anything. Last night's weather forecast hinted that today might be the last one with 'good enough' weather for some time to come. Considering that the official forecasters may be still 'on strike,' I considered it thoughtful of the TV-weather lady to mention this.

This 'good weather' in Paris has been off-and-on sporadically for some weeks, as well as on most days. So-so forecasts have turned out pretty good days, especially in the late afternoons.

Today, for example, doesn't look promising when I step outside and look straight up and then to the east and the west, above the heights of the surrounding buildings. I suppose it will get better.

Showing you snatches of 'fall in Paris' is probably misleading. Oh, the photographs aren't faked, and they are shot on the days when I say they are - but I'm not running the dim photos taken at other times on the same days. There's only so much room here.

As this may be the last day for 'misleading photos,' I will be trying to get these rather than pokephoto: place de la sorbonne into a lot of history or something else. It is sort of like giving myself a license to stroll around, as if I were an ordinary citizen.

The new look of the Place de la Sorbonne.

To start with, I get on the bus with the idea of getting off at its Luxembourg stop. I was in the Jardin des Plantes last week, and I simply don't feel like doing this in the Tuileries today. Don't ask me 'why not?' and don't moan about the Luxembourg even if it is 'again!'

The Boulevard Saint-Michel is still hacked up with the underground parking that is being put under it. So, as I almost expected, the bus skips its official Luxembourg stop and slides beyond the Rue Soufflet before getting close to the curb.

Getting set down here reminds me that I haven't checked out the Place de la Sorbonne lately. This place has been fixed up with new - modest! - fountains. The south side of the place, always in shadow, is lined with student cafés, and now the view from their terraces is mellow again.

The church door facing the place is open and it has a poster outside, and a student sitting in the doorway to check bags. "Come in and see the rehearsal of Molière in Chinese costumes," he invites.

I do look inside and sure enough several students are fully costumed. The Place de la Sorbonne is never the sunniest place in the world and inside the church is even less so, so I head up the Rue Cousin to Soufflot, like a 1000-years-worth of other students.

At Saint-Michel, opposite the Luxembourg, there is a big sign advertising the Senat's Raphael show, behindphoto: terrace cafe rostand the street construction barriers and next to the trinket stands. This is the park's only gaudy entry - all the others are sober, with their high iron gold-tipped railings.

If you feel sleepy on this café terrace - the 'Luco' is right across the street.

By this time the sun is making a sustained effort to pierce the thin clouds. It is a good time to catch loungers basking on the café terraces facing the park from the Rue de Médicis. Other than having a fair amount of green construction barrier to peer over, they look pretty comfortable amid their fonds.

All they have to do is walk ten metres to the Café Orbital to connect to the world via the 'Net - since 1995! - but I doubt many are doing this since they are in Paris, on a terrace that is nearly sunny.

Across the street, the sports photos are hung from the park's railings, and they are still getting their strolling audience. The outside photos are in color and the ones inside the park are all older, all in black and white.

Just inside the park here, there is an odd tree, but with lively autumn colors. I have photographed it in other years too. While I am wondering how long I will have to wait for enough sun to brighten it up, a passing lady with a camera tells me there are some good colors on the Rue Guynemer side of the park.

Sure, I think, if you can be there at the right time - which doesn't seem to be now. Instead, the outside tables at the park café are mostly all occupied, under a light snowfall of rusty leaves.

I should mention that it is not cold and there is little wind. To sit in the park in comfort requires no heavy clothing. Picking a spot the sun can hit is not a bad idea though - and a lot of people have done this. Thank you, Marie de Médicis, for lending us your garden.

In case you think a minor character like me is spending too much time here, I am merely following some other people.

These include Rousseau and Diderot; David, Delacroix and Watteau, the painters. The Révolution didn't do much for the park, but was followed by visits by Baudelaire, Chateaubriand, Chopin, Lamartine, Musset and George Sand. Hugo put some of his people in the park and Balzac was said to have walked around the railings in a dressing gown, carrying a chandelier. André Gide looked at the statutes and Sartre wrote a piece for thephoto: colors in lux marionettes. Members of the Résistance used the park, crossing paths used by Modigliani and Zadkine. Rilke came to dream, Lenin to see the chair attendant, and Hemingway used it as a shortcut, like many Parisians.

Fair color, even before the light got better a little later on.

It is getting lighter the further west I go, past the big pool and the grand house of the Senat. I skip the kids on the ponies and in their playground and do not go far enough for the pétanque players.

On the Guynemer side, the sun is poking its rays through the trees near the 'authentic' stature of Liberty, by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi - which makes two of these for Paris and one big one for New York.

Whether the sun has been shining over here all along, I can't tell. Some people have fallen asleep under their newspapers though. Better here than in an unheated apartment.

I leave to park by the Rue de Fleurus exit. This street was originally inside the park, but became a street in 1780. Attached to a dead-end called the Cul-de-Sac de Notre-Dame-des-Champs, its residents asked for a shorter name in 1798. 'Loustalot' was rejected in favor of the present name, which was in memory of a French win over the Austrians in 1794.

Add to this street, at the former number eight - the short-tempered botanist-pharmacologist Gaudichaud-Beaupré who took up residence here in 1838 after three round-the-world plant-collection trips, one shipwreck off the Falklands in 1820, and 17 successful duels. He died of an early old age at 65 in 1854.

Just before the Boulevard Raspail I take a shortcut through the Alliance Française building. I have lost no sleep over being a drop-out from this school, founded in 1883, because I've dropped-out of Spanish and German, and nearly failed English entirely. Some people - usually non-singers - are just not cut out for languages. In case you can sing, this is the Web URL for the Alliance Française in Paris.

Although my scholarship with French was short, my other career with French publishing was long - and this brought me into the Rue de Fleurus at least 500 times, to Editions Fleurus, which has since been absorbed into some greater conglomo.

On account of this past I take a familiar zig and zag, up Raspail and turn right into the Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs - with its name not too long! - to come across the 'Fiat 500 of the Week,' just as it is leaving its minuscule parking place. The slow reaction of the camera catches only the 'here comes..' and the 'there goes...' without the full-view 'here is.'

At the Rue de Rennes, the weather forecast is really happening. It looks like, if the Tour Montparnasse fell over, it would reach to the Saint-Placide corner. It is one of Paris' less wonderful 56-story ideas that didn't quite work out, being about 50 floors higher than anything else around when it was built.

Between Saint-Placide and the Place-du-18-Juin-1940 the Rue de Rennes is transforming itself into another major shopping street. Here we will have to keep a close watch on these ever-expanding place names and hope that the 'Rennes' doesn't become the 'Rue-du-Mardi-18-Juin-1940' - following the logic of the replacement for the simple Place de Rennes.

On the other hand, both Parisians and visitors value the tower for its services in rending lost people 'found.' The only street in Paris where this is completely unnecessary is in the Rue de Rennes itself.

At the former Place de Rennes there is the usual crowd, here for the several multi-salle cinemas, andphoto: statue of liberty, luxembourg for trekking its way around the big place - or under it, for all of its métro lines and the connecting tunnels to the train station - the one that was shoved further back so that trains from Brittany that couldn't stop wouldn't end up in the Place de Rennes.

According to my source, it hints that this is Bartholdi's 'original' version of the Statute of Liberty.'

In Paris, when you have a big place like this, it is an absolute necessity that its wide sidewalks be cluttered with métro exits, newspaper kiosks, lines for cinemas and other items of street furniture - so that 14,086 people per hour have to squeeze through a three-metre wide keyhole to get from the Boulevard Montparnasse to the Rue d'Odessa - to just name one example.

The least that can be said of this effect is that it gives the folks visiting from the sparsely-populated Brittany a definite feeling of Paris bustle as soon as they get off the train.

The Rue d'Odessa is a street name that escaped from the area of the 'Europe' métro stop in the 9th arrondissement. There are no other east European street names around - the nearest similar one being the totally deserted new-age, but western, Place de Catalogne, beyond the train station.

The Rue d'Odessa lives up to its slightly exotic name by being slightly exotic, and a bit funky. In its single block you can get sex on DVDs, or Breton crêpes, or electronic components, plus hearing aids, groceries and there are a couple of discrete three-star hotels, and a public bath.

All of this comes to a good end at the Place Edgar Quinet, which is liberally strewn with cafés. If none of these suit you, there's more life in the adjoining Rue de la Gaité, with its four theatres, its theatre cafés, its ordinary cafés and restaurants, snack shops and its share of more sex-on-DVD shops.

At the theatre La Gaité Montparnasse when I stop to shoot a poster, a monsieur pokes his head into the viewfinder and says he is not quite as famous as Annie Giradot.

This leads to him add that he is not as famous as 22 other well-known French actors, but we go across the street to the Gaité's house café to discuss this level of 'not as famous as.'

Going into this café he tells some people sitting outside he is not as famous as they are either. I look them over closely, to see if I recognize any from TV.

We are just going to have a 'quickie' because he has to catch a bus to get home to his country placephoto: sign expo sport photos, luxembourg somewhere in outer Essonne near Orsay. After my thimble of café and his balloon 'de blanc' we stagger the rest of the way up Gaité to the Avenue du Maine, and part.

Big outdoor, free photo shows - thanks to the French Senat.

Since there is still some fair light I catch a couple of other poster shots and cross the avenue to get the tall poster off a Morris column. Further on, on this side of Maine I find my monsieur again - waiting at the bus 58 stop and cursing missing his other bus direct to the boonies.

We have another 'life-long-friends' parting before I shove him on to the packed 58 bus, which scoots off towards the Porte d'Orléans.

Later, when I think of my walk today that wasn't only 'to the Luxembourg,' I remember that I have completely forgotten to go by the Musée de Montparnasse to see its current exhibit of photos - deemed to be excellent by some Le Bouquet regulars.

But if I had taken that route I would have missed Odessa and Gaité, and the unfamous monsieur, who was late for a date in Essonne. Even with no plan, you can't win them all in Paris.

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