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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 space everywhere in the interior, so I shouldn't complain.

The outside's glass panels are supposed to be the latest idea from the architectural heavens, but do not have muchphoto: tunisia fans effect just before sundown. After sundown, long blue neon tubes zoom around, and these are better – but hardly worth a postcard. Comparing them with Le Parisien's photo, it didn't look like all of them were turned on.

Passing football fans, playing winners on the Champs.

Back out on the sidewalk, I saw that the celebrating football fans had increased their numbers – of cars, of honking, of flags. While some of these were those little compressor Merc SLKs, others had come in rental vans and were hanging out of the doors and windows or standing up through roof hatches.

Red flags with stars, white and green flags with red stars – honking honking – and groups were forming on the sidewalks too. Wow! Saturday night in foot–boom town! The police, while I was there, tolerated all.

The Coupe d'Afrique, played in Tunis on Saturday, saw Tunisia overcome Morocco by two to one.

Headline of the Week

'Shopping is no longer possible in Paris' is a paraphrase of Le Parisien's 'On ne peut pas faire ses courses à Paris' in today's edition. According to the rest of the story, Paris discourages suburbanites from driving to town and parking in front of their favorite department stores. As shoppers, using the Métro, Parisians apparently don't count.

Another February Repeat of Regular Plugs

Metropole's Lodging page is online and in every issue. Listing your apartment or house for rent on this page will create a good chance of finding tenants for it.

Unlike Metropole Paris and the Café Metropole Club, listing your property in Metropole is not 'free.' Write today to enquire about details. Your suggestions will be welcome. To those who have already enquired, thanks.

Metropole's Only Version Is 'Shareware'

I can't overcome the financial problems of putting out a free virtual magazine, so I ask 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.

Café Metropole Club 'Reports'

Pop this link to have a look at the last meeting's the 'China Lake Gets On the Map' clubphoto: le renault de doisneau report. For the 'Group Photo of the Week' we huddled in the café's 'grande salle' and did not do any Mardi Gras steps.

Very minor details about the club can all be found on the 'About the Club' page. The virtual club membership card on this page is free and valid for your whole lifetime, worldwide.

More free shows for pedestrians.

The next meeting of the Café Metropole Club will be on Thursday, 19. February. The Saint's Day of the Week will be Saint–Gabin. He is not in the Saint's book and the only Gabin in the names part is Jean, whose real name was Jean Alexis Moncorgé, born in Paris in 1904 – which makes him a legit countdown candidate!

This Was Metropole One Year Ago

Issue 8.08 – 17. Feb 2003 – The Café column led off with 'Beware of Avalanches.' The 'Au Bistro' column was titled 'Decree Days are Back.' This slim issue had no features, and even had the Scène column as a repeat, as in 'What Isn't Rétro Seems Very Modern.' The Café Metropole Club update for 20. February came out asphoto: sign, place de berlin the 'Christmas In February' report. There were four brand new 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's cartoon of the week had the caption,"Is this a Hustle or Not?"

This Was Metropole Two Years Ago

Issue 7.08 – 18. Feb 2002 – The Café Metropole column began with, 'Low–Key Café Life.' The 'Au Bistro' column was titled 'Do You Remember the Franc?' Who does? This issue had two email features titled, 'Hugo In New York & Count–Downs In Paris' and 'The French Can't Always Know.' The Café Metropole Club update for 21. February featured not the first 'Drowsy Club Secretary' report. The headline for the Scène column's was 'Beautiful Cows Coming On Friday.' There were four average 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's cartoon caption of the week was, "These Are All FRANCS!"

Countdowns – Abbreviated

No new countdowns have been added this week, and Saint–Augustine was removed because there are more than enough saints already in this area. Since this page will be a day late if I don't wrap it up quickly, please turn to last week's countdowns, and subtract six days from all dates.

For those who must have their countdown no matter what, it was exactly 81 years ago today that the burialphoto: sign, h2o peugeot chamber of King Tutankhamen's lost but found and freshly unearthed tomb was unsealed in Egypt, where it had been buried for a really long time.

Paris Commune fans may wish to change their travel plans because Les Amis de la Commune of 1871 will be presenting an exhibition about the Commune from Thursday, 18. March until Thursday, 8. April. This will be in the Hôtel de Ville, open except on Sundays, and the free entry is by the front door.

This is generous of the city. The Commune, during 'Bloody Week' in 1871, dosed the priceless Hôtel de Ville with kerosene on Wednesday, 24. May, and burned the whole thing down. It took 12 years to replace it with the modest replica you can see today.

2004 Is Going Away, Slowly

Although irksome, there are about 319 days left this year. I realize this is more days–left than last week's number, but do not have any idea how this kind of foolish goof could have happened.

Despite last week's sunshine but slightly chilly temperatures we can still skate on semi–frozen but slushy 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 – where local winds may by stronger than Paris' own wispy breezes.
signature, regards, ric

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