A Fresh Air Weekend

photo: luxembourg garden, sunday

In Sunday's Luxembourg - far more people than trees.

Walking, Talking, Sitting, Rolling

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 31. March 2003:- After last week's 'wordless' issue, my plan was to not plan an issue, but to take care of some urgent work requiring a bit of attention. So what we have here is not, technically, a 'week-off' double issue - but what comes from unglued plans - like my doorbell buzzer button - becoming unstuck.

This then is the 'Café Life' that happened along the way. Unplanned, like life in Paris should be sometimes, and taking advantage of weather that has been more 'above average' than seen here for many years.

The Flippy Weather

For the life of me I can't figure how out the 'weather' got to be Metropole's most popular feature. When I was a kid I thought adults were ga-ga the way they went on about the weather all the time. To me it was right now and rain, rain, rain all the time.

Paris is different of course. Here there are forecasts and predictions, and when they are optimistic they are usually half wrong. This year's March has been different, with pessimistic predictions turning out to be half wrong too - but in our favor.

For the past several weeks almost every time the forecast has foretold miserable weather, blue sky has triumphed. There were even a couple of days last week when Paris had France's highest temperatures, both for the daily low and the high. If nature had rules, these temperatures would have been crimes.

As if this weren't good enough, the temperatures have also been several degrees 'higher than normal' - not just for March but for May.

So much for the past. For the immediate future the outlook is not rosy. Unless the forecast is wrong - it's happened before! - expect partly cloudy skies and temperatures that tumble down to 12, or even, ugh! - 11 degrees. Utter horreur!

Café Life

To Montsouris and Back

It wasn't particularly sunny on Saturday but it wasn't terribly cold either. It seems like a long time ago, so I don't recall the reason for meeting Dennis. We had a café in the café-tabac-Loto-PMU and then stood outside it until deciding to walk to Montsouris by rejecting 544 other possible destinations.

As you might imagine, 'Mouse Mountain' isn't a major goal. Going to a place like this is an excuse not to go tophoto: pro-peace demo, saturday, denfert someplace grand, which might get in the way of a conversation. Maybe the most important aspect of the boring straight-arrow route called the Avenue René Coty, is that its centre walkway is called the Allée Samuel Beckett.

Denfert lion is used as the mascot for many demonstrations.

Except for gossip and literary musings, nothing happened until we were in the Parc Montsouris. Nothing would have happened there either if I hadn't shown Dennis where to cross the bridge over the RER tracks to the side of the park with the pond.

Once there, we examined the renovated 'country' restaurant where Lenin and everybody else important in the 14th used to have lunch on Sundays. The place has not withstood its renovation well. The fake marble additions can only be tasteful late at night.

On the way back we went up the stairs by the reservoir to the Rue des Artistes, and then turned left and right and left so that we stayed in the late 19th century all the way up to the Rue Hallé.

When we came out on the Avenue Leclerc we saw that its traffic was cleared. I asked a lady traffic flic for the reason and she said it was for the day's pro-peace demo expected to arrive at Denfert.

We were close to it when we found a theatrical friend of Dennis' taking her work pause from the FNAC-photo shop. She said it was her last day, because she was ready to produce her next project.

This is Paris. Saturday afternoon, beside a major métro entry-exit, near a serious demo-destination, with shoppers scurrying all over coming out of the métro or from the Monoprix, next to a café with a terrace crowded with loungers, with dozens of riot police lining themselves and their equipment up to guard a McDonald's across the street - and we are practically back with Beckett. Seems unreal this theatre of real life.

Demo of the Day

To cover a demo-destination, the first sensible thing to do is shop for food. The advantage of this is to kill some time because demos are notoriously late arrivals, plus taking it home allowed a view the area's public safety defenses.

The Rue Daguerre was blocked at Gassendi by a red and white plastic tape. Half a block down from it a traffic flicphoto: expressway, seine was on watch to prevent transgressors. But he was too surprised to stop an upset scooter driver who dodged the 'barricade' by zipping down the sidewalk - only barely getting past a militant pedestrian willing to fight.

On the expressway, on wheels, on foot, on Sundays until fall.

Hardly anybody was walking towards Denfert on my return. There was a whole convoy of anti-riot trucks and buses parked in the Rue Froidevaux, plus more were blocking Raspail and some were over by the RER station. It looked like Arago was the only exit.

Even with my shopping and tour I was early. The hot dog stands weren't fully set up yet. Some youths were up on the lion, waving flags. A small sound system was garbling some messages, possibly about métro Saint-Michel being closed. TV crews were swaggering around, waiting for something to happen.

Over flags and beyond heads it could be seen that something was arriving from the direction of Port-Royal. There were balloons in the distance. But in the place, the youths up on the lion decided it was time for the ritual flag-burning.

The first flag was set on fire and it kind of burned fine. The TV crews got some good video of it. When the flag fell in tatters, other youths ritually stamped on it at the statue's base.

The second flag appeared to be fireproof. Lighters didn't set it on fire. Rolled-up newspaper didn't set it on fire. Squirting it with raw lighter-fluid got it to burn for 20 seconds before it went out. After ten attempts it was pretty black and tattered too, and let fall, so it could be ritually tromped on. There was a big cheer. More video was shot.

This took about 20 minutes. The advancing balloons seemed to be where they were before. All the snack stands were in full-blast, producing their usual clouds of noxious smoke. The wall of police guarding McDonald's was thicker, with depth, but nobody was nearer than the people on the café terraces.

From a distance, the scene of the youths on the lion, waving their flags, looked like a heroic capture after a serious battle. But it just was the demo of the day. The evening's France-2 TV-news had a fine five-second video clip of the second flag, not quite burning.

Paris 'Breathes' on Sundays

The new 'Paris Respire' season began on Sunday, 23. March. Yesterday had better - warmer - weather for it and it looked like a great number of Parisians turned out to usher in the pre-beach part of the year on the Seine's right-bank speedway.

I was surprised to see the sand left over from last summer, but saw that most people preferred the grass for sitting or lying on, up against the quay walls that were yellow-beige with the direct sunlight.

People seemed to be on all the bridges, on the quays opposite and in big crowds idling past the bookstalls. On the speedway, skaters rolled, bikers glided and the rest travelled on foot, happy to be getting nowhere much not too fast.

Across the Pont Notre-Dame the flower market in the Place Louis Lépine had been taken over by vendors of little birds and cages of all sizes for them.

Throngs of other people were passing from one bank of the Seine to the other and all the cafés around Place Saint-Michel were full.

Just after the Boulevard Saint-Germain, I missed a 'photo of the year' when there was a freak pausephoto: expressway right bank in the usually heavy traffic, giving an unobstructed view of the Cluny baths. I hung around for ten changes of the traffic lights, but the moment was gone.

Snack stop for thirsty strollers on right-bank expressway.

Even in the shade, all the café terraces in the Place de la Sorbonne were full. Further up Saint-Michel, sun lovers were having a convention at the cafés opposite the Luxembourg gardens.

But this was minor compared to the numbers in the gardens themselves. From a distance it looked like water fans were ten-deep around the big pond in front of the palace. Hordes were sprinkled everywhere I looked in the shade under the trees too.

It was further to go than I intended, so I left the park at the Rue Auguste Comte. I couldn't figure out why Saint-Michel was so quiet until a couple of thousand people on rollers came past, headed towards the Seine.

After they passed, there was a broken down old Renault R5 being pushed uphill by its driver, in the upcoming lane reserved for buses. A traffic cop who had been watching the Rue Auguste Comte, ran down and got behind the car and helped push it up.

When my bus 38 came, it was overfull of Parisians who all probably had a bit too much fresh air. We were crammed together like sardines all the way to Denfert.

Strikes of the Week on Thursday

These are forecast to be groupedphoto: rollers, bd st michel, sunday on Thursday, which is also predicted to be cool. Several of the SNCF's unions will be sitting out the day and this will affect suburban rail traffic in the Paris area.

Sunday's last act - a couple of thousand folks rolling around Paris.

Only one of the RATP's unions has called for a day of no métros and buses, but it is the biggest union. If you are flying, note that air traffic controllers will be also having a protest day. Teachers will also abandon classes - which will cause many parents to stay away from work.

There will not be a total shut-down of public transport, or flights, but both will be more or less affected. Make your plans accordingly.

Six unions will be involved, and they plan to have a common protest march from the Place le la République to Saint-Augustin, beginning at 13:00. Expect this to seriously confuse traffic on the right bank.

Public sector workers are unhappy with the government's proposed 'reform' of pension plans. You don't have to be French to know that the word 'reform' usually means 'less' - except when coupled with 'taxes.'

'About' Café Metropoleô Blanc de Blanc

Silence on this subject means that a great deal of work is going on behind the scenes at 'The Shed,' as the winery is known. Use this link to take you to the latest news about Metropole's sparkling wine, and to all the previous 'news' about it.

Café Metropole Club 'Reports'

Tap this link to last week's 'Red Dirt' Arrives In Paris!' club meeting report. The news wasn't absence of members from New Jersey - there were none - but a very live reminder of the club's very first 'Quote of the Week.'

The coming meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 3. April. The saint's 'Day of the Week' will be Saint-Richard. He is no relation. He doesn't seem to be even named after a town in France. This saint may be a mistake.

Nearly all of the details concerning the club - only the club's address is useful to know - are handily placed on the one-stop compact 'About the Club' page. The virtual membership card on this page may be useful, but only one member has ever claimed this.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

Issue 7.13/14 - 25. March 2002 - This slim double issue began with the Café Metropole column's 'Taking Another Powder To New York.' But not this year! The one feature was titled 'Do-It-Yourselfers at the Salon du Livre.' The updates for the Café Metropole Club meetings on 28. March and 4. April had no titles. The blurb said, 'Seephoto: flowers, montsouris late reports in issue 7.15.' The updates were done 'on time' by Linda Thalman, but put online later. This issue's 'Scene' column had 'Brava At the Café de Flore.' There were four brand new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's 'Cartoon of the Week' had the caption, 'Easter Recycled.'

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 6.14 - 2. April 2001 - The week's Café Metropole column was titled, 'Springtime for Museums.' The 'Au Bistro' column's headline was 'Jacques Gets a Summons.' The feature of the week was titled 'A New New-Age 'Startup.' The Café Metropole Club update for this issue on 5. April had the 'Late Mardi Gras On 'Black Thursday II' report. The 'Scene' column had a 'Run Around Paris.' There were four stunningly new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon was captioned, "What Kind of 'Ed' Are You?" This issue's Photo Page featured 'Behind the Louvre's Pyramid.'

38 Cups of Ghastly Instant-coffee

Early last Thursday morning Metropole's Web-server quit broadcasting Metropole's pages to readers. The cause of the failure was not mechanical. The Café Metropole Club's secretary did not find out about this until the club 'report' was to be uploaded, very early on Friday morning.

There may be some readers and club members who think Metropole's server-lady Linda Thalman servesphoto: park weigh scale drinks somewhere, or only takes rock-and-roll dancing and sailing lessons, and jollies up occasional club meetings, but this is not the entire story.

Way, way, far behind the scenes, the server-lady keeps Metropole's Web-server running. Mostly - for over seven years now - it has spun smoothly around with only the rarest occasional hiccup. After 38 cups of ghastly instant-coffee the sleepless server-lady reported that Metropole was online again on Saturday. It was only Sunday that the club's secretary could upload the Thursday meeting report.

As 'Ed' I apologize for the inconvenience. Also as 'Ed,' I am grateful to the server-lady for the extraordinary effort she made to restore Metropole Paris to the 'Net. Sending a 'thankyou' to Linda Thalman for her efforts will not be amiss. I have already written to her.

Thanks also go to concerned readers and club members who sent alerts to me, 'Ed,' or the club's secretary.

For sleepless count-down fans, the number of days left this year is 275. This may seem like a long time until 2004, and it still seems to be a long time until summer, which is 'officially' 83 long days from now. Almost in telescope range.
signature, regards, ric

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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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