A Small Issue, For Real

photo: cafe vigouroux, les halles

Winter lights in late afternoon are normal now.

Real Time Weather, Chaos On Rivoli

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 16. December 2002:- The weather here has remained truly unremarkable. Day after day we have the same old grey thing. This is the kind of winter we used to have - the ones that were damp and wet, that last from the beginning of November until a freak week in February when it is very cold but clear as glass.

It is only the 'freak week' in February that is in doubt. Without even looking at Le Parisien's forecast or watching tonight's TV-weather news I can tell you right now the temperatures will range from lows of about three degrees to six, and the highs will be from seven to ten.

This will be with or without waves of low pressure sweeping in from the Atlantic, or from the direction of the Azores with the warmer temperatures, which taken together, will mean waves of rainy periods that have intermissions with no rain. The sun, such as it is at this time of year, will be low as well as infrequent - briefly appearing for your days' bonus. Wink, and it'll be gone.

Last week there were a number of days that were kind of foggy. This was in fact, low clouds. Under the right conditions, fog in Paris is photogenic - if you don't mind being outside, wishing you were wearing some gloves.

Under the right conditions, I looked out of my near-penthouse window one day last week about noonphoto: tour no tour and was surprised to note the absence of the Tour Montparnasse. It was the first time being in Paris that I can remember not seeing it.

Paris temporarily 'loses' its Tour Montparnasse last week.

A lot of people in Paris have been trying not to see it for over 25 years now. Some of these same people use the tower as a directional aid, but refuse to admit it has any redeeming features.

I looked really hard, but it just wasn't there. Yet, the low clouds did not seem to stop me from looking at the cemetery and some buildings beyond it.

About the 'near-penthouse' phrase above - it has been pointed out to me that I can just forget there are five floors-worth of apartments over my head, and imagine my view of the Montparnasse cemetery is the best there is. 'Best there is' at the moment is kind of gloomy, with all of the naked, dark and wet tree branches, between me and it.

Equal Time 'Exception' Weather

Trust the TV-weather news to try and cheer up Christmas shoppers and visitors. Prediction for Wednesday, sunnier in Paris but with low temperatures due to northeast breezes. Front of nasty from west pushes out sun on Thursday, but maybe with a slight rise in degrees. Who knows? It might turn out to be true.

Café Life

Party Time On Skates

A reader wrote to ask if the ice skating rink at Paris' Hôtel de Ville was 'just for kids.' I wrote back to say 'of course not' and then went downtown on Saturday to look and see if my answer was correct in the true spirit of investigative journalism.

Since this was one of the Saturdays just before Christmas, the Rue de Rivoli was chock-full of holiday shoppers with faces of quiet desperation. But across the street in front of the Hôtel de Ville things were no less hectic.

The line-up to get in the skating rink was a lot longer than the one to get out of it. On top of it, the Hôtel dephoto: skating, hotel de ville Ville is hosting no less than three exhibitions, so there were a lot of people wandering around wondering which line to stand in - although the only one was for the skating rink.

Trick photo appears to show few skaters of jammed Hôtel de Ville ice rink.

I think there is something like 1200 square metres of ice to twirl around on, and there is a sort of narrow balcony on three sides which affords a small view of this. Getting slightly back and up a bit higher, showed that the rink was absolutely full of skaters surrounded by onlookers.

Very few of them were 'kids.' You can take this to mean that adults are allowed to rent skates, to do a little gliding around under the windows of Paris' mayor, Bertrand Delanoë.

If this seems too sporty, there are three exhibitions. I'm not sure all of these are mentioned in the 'Scene' or 'Noël 2002' columns, but you can find the entry for the fascinating Yves Montand exhibition on the Rue de Rivoli side. The other two exhibitions are around the corner on the Rue de Lobau side of the Hôtel de Ville.

On Saturday, with the skaters, the exhibition viewers, the shoppers and the river of traffic flowing through the middle, it seemed as crowded as the Boulevard Haussmann the week before - but with a wider variety of activities.

Sudden Hunger

Food is sold all over Paris out on the streets. There are joes selling roasted chestnuts on every corner, booths with hot crêpes and Italian sandwiches. Yves Montand used to get hot frites on the street wrapped in paper cones, and have ambulatory snacks while wandering around Paris looking for song lyrics.

After suffering hunger pangs brought on by viewing the energetic skaters, I wandered across to Notre Dame - noting that its holiday crêche is apparently inside the cathedral and not in a huge temporary manger outside - to a café on the left bank, where I ordered a simple plate of frites.

This came with a napkin, a fork, and salt and pepper with a pot of mustard. It also came with a double café, which tended to get cooler than the frites, faster. Anyway, the frites were more than they seemed to be at first, and they hit the empty spot they were intended for.

Dimitri To the Rescue

My landlord left a very useful armoire in my apartment, but he had the foresight to remove the bar for hanging clothes - which I decided to re-install because the new apartment has - in general European fashion - no built-in closets. Bookshelves do not fulfill this function very well.

So, about two months ago, I bought a bar and two support things to hold it in place. Then I asked Dimitri if he could take the time - and his tools and his expertise - to put the thing in for me.

A month ago he explained that he keeps his tools in the atelier - where I used to live - instead of his apartment - located around the corner, two minutes from where I live now.

Yesterday, while intending to go for a Sunday spin in his 2CV and run up its battery, he phoned to find outphoto: rue de rivoli if I still needed the clothes bar installed. As it turned out, his Sunday spin went no further than the pre-Christmas traffic jam right outside the car's garage - so he brought his tools over.

Exhibitions, Christmas shopping - side by side on Rivoli.

Dimitri is thorough. To screw in six little wood screws, he brought three awls, two types of screws, a measuring tape and a carpenter's level, plus some odds and ends. I provided a pencil and a light, and the whole thing was down in ten minutes because I insisted that the bar didn't need any shims to hold it tight within its attachment things.

Th long part of the job was eating some real peanuts and drinking some wine while listening to some Ry Cooder playing 'Paris, Texas' with the imperfectly-working amplifier.


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