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Triumphant Return

photo: cafe raspail vert

This issue's only sunshine photo.

Of the Countdowns

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Tuesday, 13. January 2004:– Like last week in Paris, we will be treated to clouds, clouds and more clouds. Rain may fall from some of them, but last night's TV–weather news didn't think this would happen today. They were wrong, wrong, wrong. It's been pouring.

There have been winds and there will be more winds. These winds are pushing rain–laden clouds from the Atlantic this way. The temperature, at about 10 degrees, is probably 'average' for January, but by the end of the week it will start to dip below double–digits.

On last night's TV-weather news there was a soothsayer, and he said, "Forsooth, etc.," followed by the theory that years with extraordinary heatwaves would be followed by years with extraordinary amounts of rain.

If weather like this happens in Paris, especially if it's on the same day, then I'll be able to say that Paris has tropical weather. I hope not. It was okay like it was.

Café Life

Up In Belleville

There was a brief lull in the winds and the sun peeped out of the clouds last Friday, so I decided to visit Belleville – as sort of my contribution to the 'Année de la Chine.' I want to be ready to cover it.

The 'Chinese' part, the part of it you can see, is around the Rue de Belleville and the Boulevard de Belleville – wherephoto: boulangerie, oberkampf arrondissements 10, 11, 19 and 20 join. If you keep on going downhill on the Rue du Faubourg du Temple the scene changes – into being parts of everywhere, jumbled together side by side.

A place to get fresh bread six days a week.

It is interesting. It is like being in a neighborhood of immigrants – far, very far, from the Paris of bridges, monuments, boulevards, big department store windows and imposing buildings. It is not like being 'in' 2004.

Not far down, it is possible to turn left into the Rue Saint–Maur, and cross over to the Rue Jean–Pierre Timbaud and the Rue Oberkampf. These are streets in an area that got a heavy promotion some years ago, survived it, and returned to being somewhat sleepy.

Left behind are all sorts of real and fake 'workers–bar' theme cafés. Somehow these evolved just so far and then stopped, to stay as they were – a sort of east–Paris haven for people who wear lace–up high–top boots.

Why, I wondered, were there so many people in the cafés, fairly early on a Friday afternoon? Are cafés all over Paris full on Friday afternoons? Not, as far as I know. But I don't know everything, except today – cafés around Oberkampf are fuller than the cafés I was in earlier up in Belleville.

Starbucks To Open In Paris

Next Friday, the Seattle company that put coffee shops back into the US landscape, expects to open its first branch in Paris. The creation of a new shop, near the Opéra, was announced last September.

At the time, Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz, was quoted as having said that 'it is with the utmost respect and admiration for the café society in France that we announce our entry.'

According to The Tocqueville Connection's report from AFP, Parisians will be able to 'act out' the 'American Dream' by rushing to work wearing Reeboks while clutching over–sized cardboard pots of coffee concoctions.

Since few Parisians wear 'Reeboks' whilephoto: tati rushing to work, it is an open question just how many will put up with a no–smoking café that has too many choices. Most other cafés have several variants of espresso on tap already, and some even have little paper take–away cups.

Tati has problems but keeping open isn't one of them, yet.

It is expected that the new Starbucks will be mobbed at first for its curiosity–value, but how it can beat Paris' other 3000–odd cafés for speed, comfort and convenience is unknown.

Part of Paris' 'café life' depends on habit. If you already have a favorite café that is on the way to work, why change? Most people have a favorite, and a couple of back–ups. Even in the heart of the city, any café where you have been four times, begins to treat you like a regular.

It is true that you could be treated like a 'regular' at a McDo, a GAP outlet or a Pizza Hut, but you'd have to be persistant and be ready to put a bit of yourself out – often to stressed–out employees who are too harassed by modern management to respond.

All the other 'American' attributes of Starbucks that Parisians are supposedly in awe of, already exist in their Parisian versions. But true, they might not be on the way to work. They might be in the 11th arrondissement, in the Rue Oberkampf, at the Café Charbon.

In the Rue Scribe

Suddenly the implantation of a branch of the Paris Tourist Office inside the American Express centre in the Rue Scribe begins to make sense. Airport buses stop right at the door, and the new Starbucks can't be far away.

The other positive aspect to note is that while the Paris Tourist Office section is not over–manned, justphoto: paris sur glace, montparnasse around the corner there's the larger American Express office which is full of Paris experts with lots of up–to–date information.

Free outdoor ice skating in Montparnasse.

The other day a friend popped in to ask a question, and was treated to an avalanche of 'hot tips.' One was that the best time to see the Botticelli exhibition at the Musée du Luxembourg is early on a weekend evening – when everybody else is seeing a movie or dining.

Tips like this can mean the difference between seeing the art or seeing the backs of art lover's heads, and wondering why you paid the entry fee.

Eats, Shoots and Leaves

My bluff has been called for the mangled 'quote' in last Thursday's club report. The animal was supposed to be a panda instead of a koala – why did I think it was an Oz story? – and I didn't get the part about commas.

Well then, to set matters straight. The story comes from a book with the title, 'Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation,' by Lynne Truss, and is about careless punctuation.

Apparently the apostrophe is an obscure typographical sign that baffles most writers in our modern times of self–publishing run amok. Ms Truss suggests that it needs a protection society, enforced by brutal language goons.

In Metropole you will seldom find semi or full colons. Disregard the fact that both are vital bits of the markup code behind these pages. Rather, it is that fact that both of them may look like dirt specksphoto: little orphan dimitri on your computer monitor, so the '–' has been almost universally substituted. Written in clear, the code looks like this: '–.'

Now that we are so much wiser, I still wonder about the panda. The panda eats a sandwich in a café, shoots a gun in the air and goes to leave the café. To a confused waiter the panda explains – waving a badly–punctuated book about panda ways – "Panda. Medium black–and–white bear–like mammal, native to China. Eats sandwich, shoots and leaves."

Dimitri, shown wearing home–made 'Little Orphan Annie' eyes.

Did the armed panda pay for the sandwich before causing all the ruckus?

Find out in the 2nd edition of 'A Dictionary of Modern English Usage' by Henry Fowler, first published in 1926. At one point in WWI after Fowler fainted on parade on account of being 57, he considered asking to be transferred to a lunatic asylum. The preface to the 1st edition of 'Usage' begins, "I think of it as it should have been, with its prolixities docked..."

The Regular Plugs – First Time In 2004

Metropole's Lodging page is online and in this issue. Thisphoto: soldes is likely to be a high-traffic page. Listing your apartment or house for rent on it will create a good chance of finding tenants for it.

Well–started winter sales end on Saturday, 7. February.

Unlike Metropole Paris and the Café Metropole Club, listing your property in Metropole is not 'free.' Rates for your listing will be reasonable. If you have a Web site for your apartment, your listing in Metropole will link to it. If not, we can work something out.

Write today to enquire about details. All of the conditions have not been fixed yet, but they have advanced a bit. Your suggestions will be very welcome. To those who have already enquired, thanks.

Metropole's Only Version Is 'Shareware'

To get around the problem of being a free virtual magazine, I am asking readers to consider Metropole Paris as 'shareware.' If the magazine 'works' for you, contributing a bit towards its upkeep will do wonders for keeping it online.

'Keeping Metropole flying' is simple. You can send your contributions today by hitting this link to the 'support Metropole' page.

Metropole's 'support' page will link you to 'Kagi's' Metropole page. Insert any amount you feel like. The rest of the procedure is like buying anything else via the Internet. Whatever you voluntarily choose contribute, you'll get 'Ed's 'thanks' in a return email, and 'Ed' will make sure you do.

Café Metropole Club 'Reports'

Tap this link to have a look at the last meeting's 'Wisconsin–sized Dinner Plates' club 'report.' The weather wasn't nice, most Parisians were engaged in the 'Soldes d'Hiver' battles, and the best 'Group Photos of the Week' were unshown. Thanks members – for your outrageous poses!

Some minor details concerning the club can all be found on the 'About the Club' page. The virtual club membership card shown on this page is free, so long as you print it for yourself using your own ink and paper. The card is valid for your whole lifetime worldwide, but super–valid in Paris.

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 15. January. The Saint's Day of the Week will be Saint–Remi, another 'unfound' saint, except for being the bishop of Reims. Saint–Remi converted the German barbarian Clovis to Catholicism, with a baptism in 496. Fortunately for this date, Saint–Remi's day used to be 1. October.

This Was Metropole Three Long Years Ago

Issue 6.03 – 15. Jan 2001 – The issue began with the Café column's headline, 'A Really Dumb Headline.' The 'Au Bistro' column's headline was ' Semi–Okay In Paris.' The feature of the week was 'Paris' Centre – Funk City.' The Scène column's title was 'Chinese Year of the Serpent.' The Café Metropole Club update forphoto: sign, place frehel, 20 arr 18. Jan was the 'Answer of the Week' report. There were four new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's re-run cartoon of the week had the caption, 'Coming Into Charlie Etoile.'

This Was Metropole Five Whole Years Ago

Issue 4.03 – 18. Jan 1999 – The Café Metropole column's headline was 'A Dog's Life for Strollers.' The 'Au Bistro' column was titled, 'Paris' 'Monster' Blizzard.' This small issue contained one little feature titled, 'Foujita – Superstar! In Montparnasse.' The issue's headline for the Scène column's was 'Now Featuring 1999.' How original. There were four never before seen 'Posters of the Week.' Ric the lazy cartoonist managed to include 'L'Apéro Aprés–Ski,' without raising much of a sweat.

The Revenge of the Countdowns

Jim 'Countdown' Auman writes, "This year celebrates the 100th anniversary of the death of the colossus of Colmar, Frédéric–August Bartholdi, the designer of the Stature of Liberty. His death occurred on October 4, but since he casts such a long shadow, we should start counting down early, especially if the EU wants to outlaw these countdowns."

Since the EU is still mulling over its ban on countdowns, there should be as many here as possible while there is still time. As you are 'counting–down' 274 days until Monday, 4. October, you'll have an opportunity to learn more about Bartholdi's life and works by visiting the virtual Musée–Bartholdi, plus the real one too, if you should happen to be in France.

Another big figure in French history to have a countdown this year is Saint–Augustin. He was born on Saturday, 13. November 354 at Souk Ahras in Algeria – formerly Tagaste – and died 76 years later in Annaba – formerly Hippo Regius – on the coast, about 75 kilometres away. The days remaining until the anniversary of his birthdate this year are 313. It is 1574 years since Saint–Augustin's death in 430.

On a major literary note, we should also be 'counting–down' to the 150th anniversary of the birthdate of Jean–Nicolas–Arthur Rimbaud, which is on Wednesday, 20. October, 289 days from now.

An even bigger literary splash will be made this year for George Sand, who was born 200 years ago onphoto: posted mitten Sunday, 1. July 1804. Named Aurore Dupin – this year will officially be the 'Année George Sand' all year long. For lots more, Cécile Pichot's Web site is worth a visit as is the one run by Marc Nadaux. I almost forgot. This 'count–down' lasts 178 days, until 1. July.

Paris, Ville Antique

This not a count–down exactly, but a Web site tip. The Ministry of Culture's 'Paris, Ville Antique' is worth an in–depth look, firmly in the 'now–for–something–different' department. Amaze your friends and neighbors with new–found knowledge about daily life in Paris about 2055 years before Starbucks opened their first coffee house here.

Firmly In 2004

There are 353 days left the year, which is a vast number of days as well as months. There are only 48 days left until our bonus 'Leap–Year' day extra in February, which will actually be a public holiday in many parts of the world, so don't miss it.

Despite the rains we are still able to skate on semi–frozen rinks in front of the Hôtel de Ville, the one in front of the Gare Montparnasse, or maybe even the one out at La Défense – supposing anybody would go that far to be soaked to the skin.
signature, regards, ric

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