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Below Par

photo: cafe, au vrai paris, rain

Real rain in real Paris on Saturday.

Good Bread News

by Ric Erickson

Paris:– Monday, 10. May 2004:– The weather forecast last Thursday seriously underestimated the weather that was actually in store for us, and I am sorry to have passed it on in good faith. If I recall, I summed it up in a short paragraph as being 'partly sunny.'

This was wrong wrong wrong. It was not even a tiny bit sunny. It was cloudy all the time except for the times when it was windy and it was raining fairly hard. The temperatures tanked too. They were so low they were low for early March and about right in the pits for February too.

It snowed quite a bit in the Alps. It wasn't totally unusual but it surprised some people. In truth, it was ghastly. I was our fault. We deserved it. We didn't show how happy we should have been with the wonderful weather we had.

Now I am wary. I don't know if I can trust the TV–weather news. When it's wrong it's usually making worse predictions than what actually happens. Last Thursday was a major switcheroo.

photo: pont des artsI will pat the club's mascot three times for luck. Ol' hound dog says, with a little help from the TV–weather news, that we should expect a cloudy morning tomorrow. Afterwards it might be partly sunny. I pat the club's mascot again.

Are there rays of sun in the future?

Wednesday should be partly sunny all day. Thursday may be partly sunny too, if the low pressure system moves east smartly. If it is slow to arrive, then things might not be too bright.

The really good news is about the temperatures. We are supposed to be getting out of the pit of having highs of between 10 and 13 degrees. The low tonight should by nine, and afterwards it should shoot up to 18 degrees. And here it is expected to stay, with possibly a slight dip on Thursday. Next weekend may even be reasonable – for Paris, for 'the time of year.'

Café Life

'Ed' Below Par

I am not making par this week. I am below par. The weather was way below par. I won't say Paris was less than par this past week, but my interest in it was. I think I'll go to my doctor and ask her if she has any 'above par' meds. The biggest problem with my doctor is she is always on time for appointments.

My par is sinking just thinking about all the new and interesting magazines she has in her waiting room. Being on time means I won't get a chance to read any of them for free unless I go early. Oh well, tomorrow is 'Ric's Day Off,' and I always go to the free library and read magazines there. Sometimes they have new ones that are above par. Maybe one of them will pull up my par.

Bread Life

Steven Kaplan created a major stir in France last week when his book 'Cherchez le Pain' came to the bookshelves. French media was amazed to find that an American had taken the trouble to find out more about a Parisian's daily bread than any French author.

Even more amazing, in TV interviews Steven Kaplan sounded almost French. However it was mentioned that Professorphoto: merry go round Kaplan had visited Paris many times, and for this new book had visited 600 boulangeries in the city and tasted their baguettes – at up to 20 boulangeries per day.

A merry–go–round with only pigeons for customers.

This has resulted in a guide to Parisian boulangeries, with the top 100 presented. According to AFP, the bread–eating professor is particularly proud to be the author of the 'first guide that tells bread's story.' He is, in fact, also the author of an earlier work titled, 'The Bakers of Paris and the Bread Question, 1700-1775.'

In this he traces how bread was made and sold, who did it, and how bakers and their families interacted with their customers, and the authorities. It is a scholarly work of history, while the new book is based on what a baguette is today and how it came to be the way it is.

Until a decree of 'appellation contrôlée' made in 1993, bread in Paris was headed for white 'wonderland.' The decree stipulated that a baguette had to comply with a set precise rules, including the prohibition against any additives. Another rule is that a baker cannot have a sign signalling 'artisan boulangerie' unless the bread is made on the bakery's premises.

In the book, the author explains that one should approach bread with all of the five senses. It has to look right, sound right, in addition to tasting right, smelling right and having the right texture and feel. It's a lot to hope for, for 80 centimes – and the professor is indignant when boulangeries try to demand 1.70€ for one.

The highest–rated boulangeries were two establishments in the Rue Monge, run by the competitors Eric Kayser and Dominique Saibron. They both received 18.35 points out of 20. Also highly regarded are Jean–Noël Julien and Philippe Gosselin, both in the Rue Saint–Honoré, and the lesser–known Frédéric Lalos of 'Le Quartier du Pain' in the 15th arrondissement.

In a TV–interview he slammed restaurants with fancy food and lousy baguettes. He also took a swipe at school cantines that didn't bother trying to get acceptable bread for their young scholars.

Without sounding like a fanatic, Steven Kaplan managed to give Parisians the idea that they have access to France's best bakeries, and the worst. Unlike in many rural parts of France, Parisians have a choice.

No Tourist HQ this Summer

After 33 years on the Champs–Elysées the Paris Tourist Office closed its doors at the end of the year, in the hopes of moving into its new location at 25. Rue des Pyramides in March, then April, then June.

According to Le Parisien, the city optedphoto: concorde fountain for a snazzier renovation, and this had to be approved by the Ministry of Culture – which has taken some time. The result is a new opening date, possibly in October.

Besides deploring the absence of a central reception for visitors, Paris hotel keepers are annoyed with a rise in the room tax, which has increased by 20 percent. This tax brings the city 23 million euros of revenue per year.

More water here last week.

Professionals do not think the Tourist Office's new logo will substitute for the lack of a tourist headquarters. Instead they hope that the 170 'Welcome Ambassadors' slated to resume their activities in June, will make up the difference.

After a security inspection, the top of the Grande Arche at La Défense has been allowed to reopen. Visitors can get a great view again, daily, from 10:00 to 20:00.

Laurel Avery Still Missing

The popular 'Paris Journal' columns by Laurel are still interrupted and may continue to be so for several more issues while the author is out of town again. Laurel was sighted briefly between 'out–of–towns' a few weeks ago, and she said she would be back, maybe, sometime.

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