The Hotel VW

photo: vw beetle

I look all over on Sunday, and this Beetle is right in front of Dimitri's place - for weeks.

Paris Tolerates Dirty Cars

Email from Jim Auman. Sent via the Internet on Saturday, 15. June:-

Bonjour Ric!

Your cartoon in this week's Metropole reminded me of my first days in Paris.

Just before leaving the US Army in Germany, I bought an old Volkswagen, equipped it with the oval international license plates - do these still exist? - and armed with US military maps, set out for Paris.

The maps were good only for Germany. Once past the Rhine and the German-French border, they fell off the ends of the earth. However, there was a note on the Autobahn closest to me that once in France, the French version of this road not only fell off the end of the earth but it continued to Paris.

To my surprise, once I crossed this point of no return, France and the world did not end. Maybe I can make it to Paris. After all, I went there twice by train.

But after leaving Germany, the Autobahns did come to an end. The roads were two lane affairs bordered by trees that never seemed to end.

Fortunately, there were no 'killer trees' waiting for me. Finally, around 22:00 on a Sunday night with the rain having stopped, I arrived in Paris. Somehow I wound up on the Champs-Elysées headed for the Arc de Triomphe.

Traffic was light that night - only 7 x 10 24 cars per square millimetre. I navigated the Place de l'Etoile and headed for the Latin Quarter. Amazingly enough, I found a parking spot near to where I wanted to be, but there was no room at the hotels. It was late and I was tired. I'll stay at the Hotel-VW tonight I thought.

The next day didn't bring any free rooms but there would be a vacancy the following night. Back to the Hotel-VW.

The next morning came too early. I had parked at the head of a T - intersection and a truck coming up the stem of the 'T' was trying to make a left-hand turn onto the street where I was parked and sleeping.

There was a rapping at the window and my first thought was the police. I'm going to be arrested for vagrancy and using a car for purposes other than which it was designed for.

Instead, it was the truck driver pointing out his predicament and asked me if I could move my car so he could finish making his turn. By now a crowd of people had arrived. As I started the engine, the bystanders gave a cheer of approval.

But fame is fleeting in Paris. I circled the block and came back to take up my old parking spot. Nope. Someone else was in it. I found another spot not too far away. That night was spent in a hotel and the Hotel-VW was closed.

After I settled in, I parked my car on the Allée Adrienne Lecouvreur which borders the Champ de Mars and photo: fiat 500 of the week quickly discovered the meaning of bumper to bumper. The bumpers of the cars ahead of and behind me were not only touching mine but were often on top of them!

This visiting Fiat 500 has come all the way from Rome.

My other worry here was getting a ticket for having a dirty car, but Paris wasn't like Germany then.

I sometimes rented the car to friends for trips outside of Paris. One of these liked the car so much that he wanted to buy it. Right then it had its first breakdown.

The starter motor engaged the flywheel that turned over the engine. However, the flywheel had broken teeth and the broken teeth just happened to stop next to the starter motor gear which meant the car would not start. Repairs would equal the cost of the car.

I signed over the title to my friend who paid for the cost of repairs and promptly set out for Italy. 'Les journées de mai 68' had just ended, the banks were open again, and I returned to Germany by train.

A la prochaine,

Jim Auman


Where Have They Gone?

Bonjour Jim -

Paris, Sunday, 16. June:- The hotels in the Latin Quarter are still full, there are less places to park - even illegally - than there were, but I think you could still safely park near the Champ de Mars and use a VW as a hotel.

A lot of people were lying about on all the grass there is around the Champ de Mars, without being particularly concerned with the 'pelouse non authorisé' signs. Some were even tossing frisbees around and some dogs were romping in pools. It looked like total anarchy.

This might have been because it was also polling day in France. The new regime is likely to take over next week and this will mean the end of the parking ticket amnesty, and maybe some of the tolerance of casual non-observance of local nuisance laws will end.

However, I did not see any old VW's near the Champs de Mars today. They used at be as common as bugs in the hotels photo: suntanners, chaillot garden in the Latin Quarter. I did, of course, completely by sheer chance, come across the 'Fiat 500 of the Week.' This one, in good shape, with Roma plates on it.

All small number of Sunday loungers in the park at Chaillot.

On Monday, Dimitri was sitting outside the Bouquet about noon, trying to think of some plausible reason for not going up to his oven of an atelier. He said there was some kind of 'odd' VW parked in his street, collecting parking tickets.

By 'odd' he meant it has a curved windshield. He wasn't aware these were invented in Brazil or Mexico, and he only remembers VWs with the split rear windows, without gas gauges.

I find it odd that there are so few old VW Beetles to be seen around. Weren't there about 15 million of them made? In contrast, all other Fiats made about the same time have all oxidized long ago, all except for these ultra rare 'Fiat 500s of the Week.' As hotels I think they would only suit smaller dwarfs.
signature, regards, ric

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