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Saturday Night On the Champs

photo: drugstore, champs elysees

The Drugstore's new look isn't everybody's darling.

Drugstore III Reopens

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 16. February 2004:– Radio France–Info ended its long strike yesterday and resumed its habitual program of news, news, news and repeat the news, with hardly ever a word about my favorite news radio feature, the 'life of plants.'

France–Info's weather predictions are not that easy to follow because its forecasts mainly concern the southern half of France, perhaps because the upper half has unexciting weather, like Belguim.

As usual, I've turned to my usual untrustworthy sources – this morning's Le Parisien and tonight's France–2 TV–weather news. For tomorrow, they don't agree, which is quite common for Tuesdays.

From tonight's TV–weather map I deduce that Tuesday will be semi–cloudy and partly sunny, both at once. I prefer the TV's prediction because it gives two degrees more warmth than the newspaper – with a high of seven degrees.

Then on Wednesday it should get brighter with less 'semi' and more sunny, with both the paper and the TV agreeing on a high of seven. Le Parisien is even more positive for Thursday – perhaps because its sun–and–cloud graphics don't evolve like the ones on TV.

My note, as interpreted from TV, and scribbled on Le Parisien's Thursday weather map, says 'more sunny.' More than what? Why, more than Wednesday. The paper guesses the high will be five while the TV–weather news is betting on six. Six looks good to me. I'll bet on six. And wear my 'muffle' in case it is only five.

Café Life

Between bouts of testing the Hôtel Chambiges Elysées on Saturday I took the opportunity to make a flying check on the Champs–Elysées' latest version of the Drugstore, at the top of the avenue near the Arc de Triomphe.

When I arrived at the avenue, by going overland up the Rue François–1er to George V, I realizedphoto: night traffic, champs elysees, moroccan flag I had made a lucky choice of day to pay a visit – my first since Chinese New Year – because soccer fans were joyriding up and down the avenue, overcome with sheer joy about the results of a championship match played in Africa.

Just another average Saturday night on the Champs–Elysées.

Also, I was clever enough to arrive while it was still daylight, so I was well able to appreciate the Israeli flags decorating the avenue, for the occasion of a state visit by Israel's President, Moshé Katsav, today.

This visit was treated in some detail by this morning's Le Parisien, in terms of warnings about traffic jams today, tomorrow and on Thursday. These won't affect you if you use the underground Métro to get around town.

On the other hand, Orly's air traffic controllers were on strike today, so domestic flights were disturbed a bit drastically. This strike is supposed to last all week, and it may spill over to Roissy's controllers at Charles– de–Gaulle airport.

Orly's air controllers are sore because civil aviation authorities want to group them together with Roissy's controllers, to handle all air traffic in the Ile–de–France region.

Meanwhile, back at late Saturday afternoon on the Champs–Elysées, there were great crowds of ordinary people out enjoying a stroll on the avenue's wide sidewalks, while carloads of football fans were cruising up and down, waving Tunisian and Moroccan flags with wild abandon, and doing the same with their car hooters.

One set of supporters were using the Moroccan flag, which I believe is mostly red with a star and maybe a crescent. The other set were using the Tunisian flag, which is mostly white and a bit of green, and maybe a red star too.

I'm confused because my elderly atlas shows older versions of these two countries' flags. It doesn't really matter anyway, because it was impossible to tell who were the winners and who were the losers – they were all acting, loudly, like winners.

At the new version of the Drugstore there was a big mob inside milling around, rubbernecking. The new inside layout is modern – this means it is minimal. There are flat gray partitions and there are glass partitions, and it's not always easy to spot the glass ones. Care is needed here because they are about a centimetre thick.

Compared to what it was like, it now looks like the inside of an auto dealership garage. Actually, this latest is the Drugstore's third version. The first, the 1958 version, was destroyed by fire in 1972. Two years later it reopened with a new look, which was probably the best.

At the beginning the Drugstore was 'revolutionary' because it contained a bunch of boutiques within one name–place – a sort of vertical mall – but was not 'revolutionary' at all because Paris had its 'passages' a long time ago, long before anybody ever thought of putting parking lots in wheat fields out in the suburbs.

What was really "revolutionary' about the Drugstore – which does have a late–night pharmacy – was offering other goods for sale at a time of day when most shops are closed.

I mean, if you are the Champs–Elysées at 02:00 and need cigarettes, Champagne, a baguette, a gift for your wife, or a newspaper to read, then the Drugstore is at your service after the normal closing time of 19:00.

The Drugstore is also the headquarters of the Publicis ad agency, so it was reopened with proper pomp and appropriate ceremony on Friday, 6. February. For an occasion like this it seemsphoto: bar resto, drugstore pretty easy to arrange for the attendance of the usual 300 personalities, and because it is on the Champs–Elysées getting a gawking crowd of 10,000 is no problem at all.

Having a snack and a drink in the Drugstore, you are almost on the sidewalk.

For some reason it is all a bit like hicksville, because much noise is made about the selection of high– tech trinkets one can acquire late at night. I didn't see any though. More impressive is the expanded international newspaper and magazine area, and the variety of fancy food available.

The bar, with a hut of glass, sticks out on to the sidewalk. It might be nice to have a quiet cocktail while sitting in a fishbowl – it would be even nicer if the glass was kept clean. At night it looked like scratched plexiglass.

There's a fair–sized wine selection in the basement, and toilets too. The higher–volume toilets are above the ground floor, but I did not see the lady who used to run them. To be fair, there is more pace everywhere in the interior, so I shouldn't complain.

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