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Salvador Allende's Week

photo: terrace, club med, champs elysees

Club Med's terrace on the Champs-Elysées.

Meet Prosper Mérimée

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 8. September 2003:- Cars driving by under my window in the rain make a sound like approaching wind but as they are going away they sound like boats skimming along the watery street. If there are a lot of them everything sounds wet, with black glistening tires making disappearing tracks on the asphalt.

When it is night, as it is, it seems like it has been going on forever. The forever rain. Yet rain is seldom here. The wet clouds that drag across France from the Atlantic are not terribly big and full. They are just little clouds with a little rain in them, sometimes. I must be thinking of some other country where the clouds are heavy and they can last for a month non-stop.

The middle of last week showed us a first burst of fall's sunshine. There were two days when it was about as bright as it ever gets, what I call ninety- percent days, which is giving them a lot of credit. I wonder if there were any in August despite the heat. Probably not, because reports said the air wasn't good.

So, out of 365 days in a year in Paris, there might be five crystal-clear ones. It's a lot less than ten percent. It is not like wherever there are a lot of crystal-clear days, if there is anyplace like that.

Today's weather map of France in Le Parisien looks like a rehearsal for days of unrelieved gloom, yet it was pretty sunny this morning and not too cool even if it wasn't much below 20 degrees. I wasn't paying attention to it when it quit being bright and cheerful this afternoon.

Last night the TV-weather news had a forecast for the week that got more upbeat the further ahead it looked. Thisphoto: sleeper, pont des arts type of forecast has been shown on Sunday evenings before, but when Monday night's forecast rolls around, they won't go beyond Wednesday. The coming three-out-of-five-chance one-sunball weekend is scrapped overnight.

There were a couple of dozy people lying around Paris last Wednesday.

Tonight it was replaced with waves of cloud looking like big rollers, rolling across the country from the northwest. Wind in the Channel punching it in, and big winds down south, sucking it out into the Mediterranean at twice the speed. Coming from the northwest, a high of 17 degrees tomorrow will be no surprise.

But don't take this too seriously. It just looks dramatic. by Wednesday the Atlantic wind shifts to its normal position of blowing from the west by southwest, to push some weaker waves of clouds over France to Luxembourg. Give temperature plus one degree.

Thursday, et voilà! Luxembourg gets it all, and in its wake we have partly sunny practically everywhere, with a temperature spread of 22 for Paris and 24 for Marseille. Even if the 'nose' of Finistere sticking out in the Atlantic gets a dose of cloudy, it will have the same temperature as the Riviera. Who knows? Maybe we'll have the one-sunball weekend after all.

Café Life

Salvador Allende In the 14th

Last Tuesday, less wrung out than usual, I was in my quartier's public library to catch up on my reading that has little or nothing to do with this job. Nevertheless, the first thing I do when I go there is always check the rack of brochures, to see if there are any events going on that I don't know about.

Sure enough, printed on a half sheet, on one side, in black on white, was an invitation to pay 'Homage to Salvador Allende, Ex-president of Chile' that very evening, in the annex of the local city hall. This was to be the kick-off for a four-day exhibition by Chilean artists, with an inaugural concert by Angel Parra, and a closing film titled 'I Love Pinochet.'

When I arrived later on at the top of the annex's impressive two-flight reverse staircase, the first person I saw was the arrondissement's mayor, Pierre Castagnou, talking with who I guessed to be Chile's Ambassador to France. The rest of the large hall was filled with a lot of people speaking Spanish, and the walls were hung with paintings and photos, with a few sculptures in the entry area.

It looked almost like a private party. The simple invitation didn't say anything about it being a 'vernissage' and I didn't see anything looking eatable or drinkable, so I circulated once, decided it was my 'day off,' and left.

Another note I had seen in the library said that the 14th arrondissement is now online. In one way or another the Daguerre part of the 14th has been online for some time already, but the Mairie of the 14th's Web site is official.

In parts it is quite poetic. It's geography is described like this, "By its trapezoidal form, thephoto: allende homage, mairie 14th map of the 14th, in the form of the iron blade of a hatchet slicing towards the south, was certainly one of the best sculpted arrondissements created under the direction of Baron Haussmann."

Friends of Chile, paying homage to Salvador Allende last week.

In my mind, the Baron was sitting in his office one day, looking at this out-of-town blank space south of the Boulevard Montparnasse. On the west were, and still are, the railroad tracks, and on the east there were two big hospitals - Cochin and Saint-Anne, so he drew a line to the east of them, down the Rue de la Santé.

Then he reflected. The hospitals, although sizeable, didn't quite balance the weight of the rails in the west, so the Baron added the Santé prison to the east. It has had almost as many famous people in it as are still in the Montparnasse cemetery. As far as I know it is pure coincidence that the shape of the prison is the same as the arrondissement, trapezoidal.

Finally, the place and/or square in the 7th arrondissement with the name of Santiago de Chile, received the name of Salvador Allende during the week.

Isabelle Twirls

I am pretty sure helicopter flights are not permitted over Paris, but Isabelle Ducros Grosdemouge can take you whirling up in her helicopters for rides over châteaux and other sights in the areas around Paris, best seen - and photographed - from the air. Isabelle claims lady helicopter pilots have a 'softer' hand on the tiller, and 600 passengers so far haven't complained. Check out Isabelle's Isahelico Web site or phone 06 12 71 34 78.

Paris In Stereo

Las Vegas photographer and longtime Metropole reader John McCulloch says we should all take a look at these 19th century stereoscopic iewsphoto: porte des lions, louvre of Paris. As he says, 'just in case I haven't tumbled on this Web site.' In passing, John has also invited me to Nevada to 'get cooked like a lobster.' I should have stayed in Paris in August if I wanted to try it.

The Louvre's Porte des Lions, with the quay beyond.
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