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How To Not Dine Out

photo: bistrot a vins, les dessous de la robe

For once in four years, no car is parked in front
of the Les Dessous de la Robe.

No Subscriptions for Metropole

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 3. November 2003:- The weather is really odd. Last week was seven days of blahs, finishing off yesterday with a bit of rain. Even the rain was a change from the blahs. I think somebody wrote to ask for photos of rain. But it was wet, and dark, and I didn't feel like taking the camera out for a walk.

I might have missed a good chance there. Rainy-day photos are done under very specific conditions. Usually it's best to wait until the rain has nearly stopped and the sky clears a bit so there's enough light, because this shows up the puddles nicely. Any old gloom of a rainy day isn't good enough.

The chance I missed was maybe a couple of split-seconds yesterday. Today has been partly sunny out of my southern windows and mostly cloudy out of my northern window, with a snappy breeze blowing from south to north.

According to today's Le Parisien and tonight's TV-weather news, there isn't going to be any rain in the days to come. We're not going to get the blahs either. After some lingering clouds tomorrow morning, the sky is supposed to clear up completely and stay this way until Thursday. There's also a three out of five chance that sunshine days will continue into next weekend.

With accompanying high temperatures of 14 degrees, it should be more than pleasant enough to walk around all over as golden and yellow leaves flutter down from the trees, to lie crispy all over on sidewalks and paths in the gardens and parks. Only a few trees in my street are completely bare. Some of the rest still have green leaves on them, but there are a lot of colored ones too.

Café Life

Dageurréotypistas Dining Out

Nigel from Oz made swift visit last week, on his way between Sydney and Washington, and some as yet undisclosed island in the Aegean Sea. While here he had three tasks. He had to pick up his Athens flight ticket from an obscure upstairs travel agent near Sentier and he had to get a guide book for Greece.

Unable to find a recent used one, he bought a new one, chopped out the part he needed and left the rest here for later use. His third task was to attend a Café Metropole Club meeting.

Into this bustle, two dinners in restaurants were fitted. A couple of visits ago we tried to get into a nearbyphoto: spanish shop outpost of 'Chez Papa,' but couldn't because the place was so full that people who had eaten there the night before were waiting outside to get back in again.

All the goodies from Spain are here.

On Wednesday night we were lucky - and early! - so we got as close as the bar, where we had to wait for a free table. There were only three young ladies ahead of us. I hadn't finished my so-so café before we were offered a sudden opportunity of a smoke-free table, and got away from the dozen people who had appeared behind us.

The table was about as big as a chess board. We were tightly surrounded by other diners at their edge-to-edge chess boards, all digging into huge steaming pots of meat and potatoes and other stuff. 'Chez Papa,' with its heavy-duty southeastern cuisine is popular with hungry younger folks, who require a lot more fortification because of the kind of music they listen to.

This might not be fair. Maybe they needed stomach lining reinforcements before spending the rest of the evening downing green cocktails at the Zango. In 'Chez Papa' it was so loud that I didn't hear what Nigel ordered, and I couldn't read the name of what I ordered, because the menu was printed in the same color as the ambiant light.

When the waiter swiftly arrived with our orders there was no room on the tiny table. He set two pots on edges, each with a side plate on top. I didn't see where the dinner plates came from. From custom, with some juggling, we each helped ourselves from the closest pots.

Mine was very good, even if I thought it was the strangest veal with ham and melted Cantal that I had ever seen. I dug right in and didn't look up until I was finished. I couldn't believe I ate the whole thing.

I couldn't believe that Nigel had only eaten a third of his. As he pulled and hacked at what looked like a yellow glob glued to a slab of grey rubber, it occurred to me that my veal might have been his stewed beef. I think Nigel was already aware of this, because he offered me some.

If veal - even tender French veal - ever seems like cheese-flavored chewing gum, then you'll know what I ordered. On the other hand, if you are at 'Chez Papa' and have some sort of beef in big cubes that kind of melt in your mouth, then you'll have what Nigel ordered.

We didn't bother hanging around for café afterwards. I had mine already. After battling our way past 25 hungry people waiting out on the sidewalk we went to the café Rendez-Vous and had one there instead.

On Friday, Nigel and I went to the café Rendez-Vous to eat because Nigel and Dimitri had gone there the night before, while I was writing the club report. Nigel said he had something really mediocre to eat, but Dimitri had a fine hamburger with a fried egg on top.

We had a big table on the glassed-in terrace near a radiator. The waiter, one of the regulars, had on a revolting,photo: wine shop spring-loaded, pop-up Halloween tie. The brasserie was fine, it was peaceful, the hamburger was thick and juicy, and rare instead of medium-done, but this is the way it always is. Nigel finally got something he wanted - rather than blind-ordered, or wished he had.

And some good French wine is here.

To take your mind off these forgettable dining experiences, please turn to 'The Fire & The Hearth,' which contains Randy Harber's account of recently eating well in a handful of classic Montparnasse food palaces. See about halfway down the page.

The title of Randy's column comes from the name of a short story by William Faulkner. The link was sent along by Rick Brown who runs the City-Directory somewhere near Atlanta. He had no idea about our adventures south of the cemetery, not all that far from the 'centre of the world' at Vavin.

Metropole Remains Subscription-Free

Since last Thursday Metropole has had a facility for receiving contributions to support the production of the magazine and keep it online. One of Metropole's readers didn't wait for this, and sent some money through another channel. As it was put, 'as a back payment for reading the magazine for years.'

It's like going to a magazine stand and leafing through some of them. Sooner or later you will either have to stop, or you will find one sufficiently interesting and take it to the cashier and pay for it. If you really like the magazine you will probably buy a subscription to it so you get it regularly.

But you can't buy a 'subscription' to Metropole because it is only available on the WorldWideWeb, and is supposed to be accessible to everybody all the time. As hard as it is to develop other sources of revenues, paid subscriptions can't be one of them. Some readers - for example, students reading Metropole in school libraries - just wouldn't have any way to pay for it.

So I've taken an idea used by independent software authors, many of whom survive by using the 'shareware' method. If the user finds the software useful, they satisfy a certain self-interest by paying for it.

When they do they often receive a registration code, and are assured of a certain amount of help from the author. They may be informed that minor updates are free and they should download them. Improved upgraded versions of the software are often sold at a discount to registered users.

With Metropole, readers do get feedback if they request it. Writing to 'Ed' will do the trick. All other things being equal, there are regularly 'upgraded' versions of the magazine at weekly intervals. You are not alerted about these because they are regular - nearly every week - and you don't need an email reminder.

With your contributions to support the magazine I hope to be able to maintain weekly production and keep on hosting the weekly Café Metropole Club meetings, which will remain 'free' too.

These are my minimum expectations for your magazine about Paris. For these, you can add your contributions today by clicking on this link to the new 'support' page.

I do not have enough megalomania to have 'maximum' expectations. But there are features I would like tophoto: cafe au rendez vous des amis see added to Metropole. Many readers and club members would like to ask me where to eat and drink in Paris - but are polite enough not to because many know I don't do much of either.

A warm place to eat 'with friends.'

Some readers and club members would like to see a listing of inexpensive but neat hotels, or a listing of short-term rental apartments. You would like to see Metropole add practical guide features. Personally, I would like to add interaction in the form of quirky quizzes and contests - and feature pages filled with accounts of your experiences in Paris, to make Metropole more 'your' magazine.

Your support contributions for Metropole will be used to keep the magazine online and available to everybody everywhere. If it happens that there is a 'surplus,' then there will be a more, better, Metropole too.

Finally, if you have any ideas and suggestions for helping Metropole, send them along. Some of the ideas sent so far have been 'killers.' You never know - maybe you have the absolutely glorious technicolor 300-watt lightbulb of an idea.

France Seeks Contributions from Speeders

Just in time for the 'grand return' of Toussaint holidayers in France, the government installed the first batch of completely robotic speeder detectors. These devices record excess-speeds, photograph the offending car's licence plate, look up registration to get the operator's name and address, print out a traffic ticket, take 'points' off the corresponding driver's licence, and mail the ticket to the address.

Today's 'score' for the past long weekend has been 4400 speeding tickets, some of which will have arrived in today's mail. Thisphoto: old, closed shop has been reported as a 30 percent increase over the corresponding period last year. The Ministry of the Interior is reported to be happy. We can expect that the government will spend hundreds of millions more for thousands of additional speeding-ticket robots.

A place that no longer has any friends.

There are only two minor problems. In France the law says that a human being has to witness the infraction. Cops normally fulfill this function. The other is the relatively new notion of 'presumption of innocence.' In other words, a speeder should have the right to contest an alleged infraction, before a fine is levied.

Metropole's 'Partners'

Metropole's .COM area is handily gathered on the relatively sleepy 'Partner' page. Check out this page every week, if for no other reason than the 'Photo of the Week,' which it will only be on view for one week.

Metropole's long-time affiliates are on this page too. The Café Metropole sparkling wine also has its spot on it, with a link to its own permanent About Wine page. Both pages can be accessed from the blurbs on the left, and sometimes right-hand columns, on many pages.

Metropole's 'mailto:' Change

The changed email address for 'Ric,' 'Ed,' and the Café Metropole Club's secretary is ericksonr@wanadoo.fr. Please note it in your address book, so I don't have to run this change-of-address text every week for the next seven years with the same typos in it.

Café Metropole Club 'Reports'

Plop your cursor on this link to have a look at last week's "It's Been 103 Weeks" clubphoto: playground 'report.' There was a good turnout of members. Two of these chanced to be together at another club meeting 103 weeks ago. I'm not sure which of the two meetings was a 'first.'

The 'playground' of some public- housing apartments.

Minor details concerning the club can all be found grouped on the 'About the Club' page, because there are no more than a few even if there is room for more. The virtual but tattered club membership card on this page is available for free, so long as you print it yourself. The card is good worldwide, but super-valid in Paris.

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 6. November. The Saint's Day of the Week will be Saint-Léonard-de-Noblac. Saint-Léonard was a hermit in Noblac, possibly near Vienne, where his cell became a monastery, then a destination of pilgrimages. He died about 559, which was 1444 years ago.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago

Issue 7.45 - 4. Nov 2002 - This issue's Café Metropole column headline was completely normal with 'Amok and Out of Time.' Metropole's wine was featured for another week with 'Cold Snap Makes Moonlight Light Its Stove.' The Secene column's headline was 'Only Ordinary Attractions.' The other feature was 'Le Mois de la Photo 2002' - The November of Photos.' The club's update on 7. Novemberphoto: sign, avenue de l'est, 27e division with the "Eeek!" She Said' report. There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon was captioned, "Wouldn't You Rather?" Oh?

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 6.45 - 5. Nov 2001 - This issue began with the Café Metropole column's strange 'Crocodile Nigel's Biannual Visit.' The 'Au Bistro' column's headline asked, 'Who's Afraid of the Institut Pasteur?' The week's feature was 'on leave.' The update for the Café Metropole Club's meeting on 8. November was titled the 'Church of the Week' report. The Scene column's title was 'Malraux et la Modernité.' There were six new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's 'Cartoon of the Week' was captioned, "Bonjour Manhattan!"

The Sous-Sol of the Countdowns

For the regular version of this hugely popular feature, turn to the last Café page with it, and subtract 14 days from all numbers except the dates.

Toussaint

As a practical matter, the national holiday known as Toussaint on 1. November doesn't amount to much. Most shops stay open if they sell food or are big places, and most other attractions are operating as well, unless they specifically close on public holidays.

Many of the French set the day aside to do what it is for - remember the dead. Many do this by visiting a cemetery where they have relatives buried. Some clean the gravestonesphoto: sign, rue pierre charron and put fresh flowers on them. Saturday had pretty good weather for this, and I saw many more visitors than usual in the Montparnasse cemetery.

Despite all of Friday's news, Saturday's Le Parisien gave its inside pages two and three to Toussaint features. In France the dead may be a bit more remembered this year because of the death toll that resulted from the summer heatwave. TV crews were out at the cemetery just south of Paris where the unclaimed dead were buried by the city. Some Parisians, not related to any of them, were there too.

'Toussaint' means All-Saints. It is followed by 'Défunts' on 2. November. 'Défunts' means deceased. Sunday was another big day for cemeteries. With the clocks having been set back the previous weekend, by closing time on both days it was dark. I could hear the whistles of the cemetery guardians urging the visitors to leave.

The number of days left this year is only 58 - many fewer than last week. Sooner than we expect we'll be thinking about standing elbow to elbow in front of cheerily freezing department store windows gaily illuminated for Christmas. Either this, or we'll be skating on a frozen rink in front of the Hôtel de Ville.
signature, regards, ric

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