Any Peniches for Rent?

photo: cafe tabac 2 moulins, rue lepic

Here it is - movie star Amélie Poulain's real café.

Count-downless & Out

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 9. September 2002:- On Sunday a storm warning was given for the areas around Marseille and the ensuring storm outdid its forecast, drowning the area in torrential rains, thunder and lightening storms lasting into today, with the warning continuing until 21:00 for the Var department.

Meanwhile in Paris, the sky was up to next to nothing by being nearly all grey, and the temperatures had difficulty getting above 20 - which is low 'for this time of year,' but not too unusual.

For tomorrow this may degrade slightly, with a high of no more than 19 degrees, which is ever 'lower for this time of year.'

Since you have put up with the lousy forecast so far, your reward is Wednesday - when the weather map shows absolutely nothing for this area other than a forecast high of a blazing 22. In case this modest improvement doesn't actually turn up, please remember that 'nothing' is better than 'crummy.'

Yet, as things now are, the long-term forecast for next Thursday shows sunshine for Paris, with the high holding steady at 22 degrees. Friday looks even better but since I hardly believe in Thursday, I won't bet on it.

None of the above are actual weather predictions. If you recall last week's column, I decided that I was never meant to write weather predictions - not even in good faith.

But I feel that readers have grown used to having 'weather' start this column and nothing that anybody is 'used to' gets tossed out with the baby and the dish water, so I include a facsimile of a weather report - and trust you to treat it as fiction.

Café Life

Chez Claude

I am a nearly perfect patient, as far as my doctor is concerned. I only go to see her once every six months. After we decide I am still alive - a walk-in patient! - I ask her how she is.

General practitioners were 'on strike' in the spring because the public- health hadn't allowed them tophoto: rue pilon raise their rates for six or eleven years, and the new euro was straining things a bit. After many colorful demonstrations all over France - with real virtual blood - the doctors forced through a consultation hike to 20 euros.

Even with this, not many doctors golf much in France. They can't - being more or less employees of the public-health system, which has such a great deficit that it swallows golf courses whole.

Way down the Rue Pilon - that's Paris down there.

Anyway, I am in good shape despite being totally unnerved from looking for new lodgings for so long. After the short consultation I thought a café might perk me a bit, but I ran into a guy on the street who was looking for my concierge's husband.

He was two days too late. After living here for 27 years, my concierge and her husband and two kids and their little dog, went back home to Portugal on Wednesday. For me, it means no more smells of Portuguese cooking in the courtyard, and probably no more watered flower pots either. It really is time to move if for no other reason.

After having my café in Jean's La Comédia - he has Portuguese tapas! - I dropped into Claude's hair-clip joint to say hello and see if any ladies there were in the apartment rental business.

None were, of course. But when a monsieur came in, Claude was reminded of the Paris campsite in the Bois de Boulogne. Claude suggested that I get a camping-car and move in there. If they threw me out, I could simply drive to another one, in Saint-Tropez or somewhere.

The monsieur said that peniches were good in a pinch too. With Europe's crazy weather and all the floods everywhere, their big advantage is that they float. With advice like this, I think I'll go back to my doctor and ask for something stronger.

Amélie's Famous Café

A week ago I mentioned here that the café featured in the movie, the 'Fabuleux Destin d'Amélie Poulain,' is about to change owners, and this made me think I should give it a once-over before this happens.

The café is halfway up the part of the Rue Lepic that begins at the Place Blanche and goes straight up to where it turns left after not joining the Rue des Abbesses coming from the right. Being an experienced hiker of Paris' hills, I rode the métro to Abbesses so that I could walk down in comfort.

But first there is the Rue des Abbesses itself. Between the métro station and the Rue Lepic, it has about the same atmosphere, and many more cafés, so it should be included anyway.

Neither of the two streets is a 'movie' street. Both are, together really, one marché quartierphoto: interior, cafe 2 moulins that caters to the surrounding neighborhood. Despite being part of Montmartre, despite being famous for a really long time, neither has the utter postcard-look of the top of the 'butte.'

The interior of Amélie's café Saturday afternoon.

Horsemeat butchers sell horsemeat, boulangeries sell baguettes, wine shops sell wine, greengrocers sell green groceries, five-and-dime shops sell stuff for euros, and the fish shops sell fish lying on beds of ice.

Between these the cafés have what cafés are supposed to have, and none of anything seemed to be fixed up to look like a cartoon of itself.

There were obvious visitors around who had come to see Amélie's quartier and fill up large portions of the café terraces, but I had the feeling that there won't be so many of these around on grey days in November, when everybody else will be inside the cafés after doing their shopping.

I saw some parts of the movie's first 30 minutes about 12 times. Its hyped colors do not match reality, which is somewhat more subdued - but no less colorful if you bother to look at it carefully.

The best part about the Rue Lepic is that it is the Rue Lepic and not somebody's idea of what the Rue Lepic should be like, and it appears as if the Rue Lepic has been the way it is now for about the last 40 years.

The city seems to have left it alone, leaving its street and sidewalks as they are, and the surrounding streets are just the same. I may have overlooked some places that ave been tricked up a bit, but I can't honestly say I remember seeing any ferns or obvious deco.


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