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Talk of the Tour

photo: group, kathy, Lindsay, mark, diane

The 'Group of the Week,' starring Kathy, Lindsay,
Mark and Diane.

''My First Macaroon''

Paris:– Thursday, 8. July 2004:– Something very strange – for July – has happened to the weather. Just as France is supposed to be getting ready for a horrible heat wave, we have a freaky Atlantic storm battering the country – wrecking the peach crop and making life damp for holidayers supposed to be gamboling in caravans.

It is not pleasant for the bicycle riders competing in this year's Tour de France either, and is just as miserable for the millions of fans turning out to watch their heros trying to ride past on the rain–slicked roads. Many riders are ending up beached in mucky ditches.

To make matters worse, TV's weather news is falling down on the job. Tonight's forecast for the next three days concentrated itself on Friday, and left viewers in the lurch for the weekend. Who knows what's coming? Is it so bad that it's better not to tell us?

The main features of tomorrow's weather will be clouds, rain, winds, fleeting sunny periods, clouds, and more rain. The orange weather alert is less than what it was on Wednesday, but is still in place for three departments up in the Alps.

Meanwhile, down here on the flatlands, we can expect more of the breezes we've been having for the pastphoto: la corona terrace couple of days. These will bring a variety of weather, none of it better than crummy. Low temperatures are expected too, with Friday's high in Paris to be no more than 17 degrees.

The gloomy terrace of the week.

This morning's Le Parisien has a bit more courage concerning the weekend even if the news isn't very positive for this part of France. The following front that pokes into Brittany sometime on Friday will sweep east, perhaps keeping Paris covered with clouds full of rain. Temperatures may rise a bit to as much as 20 degrees, which is well short of 'normal for this time of year.'

To be absolutely candid, we never have summer weather that is 'normal for this time of year.' There is no such thing. There never was. There probably never will be. Whoever made it up, made a joke.

Another Simple 'Club Report of the Week'

My precautions for stormy weather consisted of putting my winter cap, my reading glasses and something to read, in my bag before starting out for the club today. On the way I even considered that I should have packed an umbrella too, but I gave up on these years ago. Besides, it was windy again.

Sure enough, halfway to the Métro, it started to pour. It doesn't usually do this for long, but if it does it hard enough for five or ten minutes, you can have a pretty damp ride underground.

On getting to Châtelet, the Rue de Rivoli was between showers but still breezy – meaning I could get soaked again on the rest of the way to the club. I considered the route with awnings for cover, and then chanced the quicker open sky route instead.

Nobody was sitting outside on La Corona's two terraces when I arrived. There weren't even a lot of strollersphoto: cafe of the week around. A lot of them were in the café, stalling. Stretching out their lunches, or having second lunches. There's no limit to how many lunches it's possible to have during a rainy afternoon.

Swimming pool of 'Café of the Week.'

So, the 'Waiter of the Week' in the café's 'grande salle' was happy. He showed no displeasure when I said I would order something later. He thought I meant that he should check the level of onion soup in the pot.

I looked around and saw that all the lights were on in the club's area. A good thing because on cloudy summer days it's darker in the 'grande salle' than in winter. Even with the lights on, it isn't too bright. Reminds me of camp – of sitting in a soggy tent waiting for the rain to stop, or slow down.

Today's first new member arrives too soon for me to glance at my reading material. This is Diane Chase, from Davis, California. Davis is close to Sacramento and is home town to the University of California's wine unit. This town had something to do with Café Metropole Blanc de Blanc, so it becomes the 'City of the Week.'

Diane tells me she rode a bicycle around Provence for a week and then took a holiday from it in Cassis, because it's close to Marseille. I remember Cassis in the rain in 1976. I've never been back.

Then Diane went up north to see the Tour de France, in the rain, and returned to Paris today. She saw Lance Armstrong pass in Amiens this morning, and heard that he got his yellow shirt. Yesterday she saw the end of a day's stage. She says it was very exciting, even in the rain.

Kathy Eahry arrives. Everybody should remember member Kathy from March of last year because her home town of Nutley, New Jersey was the 'City of the Week.' Ah, Nutley, how sweet it was! For a week at least.

The next new members to arrive are Lindsay and Mark Hauler. Mark says they are from Atlanta, and more exactly, they live in the Dunwoody part of it. Or near it. Mark has flown over here to meet Lindsay who is returning from a holiday in Tel Aviv.

I am sorry now that Davis is the 'City of the Week.' It deserves it, but Dunwoody is awfully tempting. Maybe next time. Diane says the cathedral in Amiens has a wonderful light show involving its windows, so long as you can stay awake to see it at about 22:45 at this time of year. I never realized that bikes can make people so sleepy, so early.

Lindsay says something about smokey crêperies, or smoke in crêperies, but myphoto: diable menthe of the week note doesn't say whether the offenders are in Tel Aviv or in Paris. But it does remind me to wonder if any crêperies ever have maple syrup.

Before any of the experts present can supply an answer, Lindsay says the next thing she and her dad are going to see in Paris is Amsterdam. I am pretty sure crêperies in Amsterdam are smokier than in Paris. Oh. Their flight back to Atlanta leaves from the terminal in Amsterdam, not Roissy.

Dangerously green 'Diable of the Week.'

Mark wants to know about the purpose of the big construction at Concorde. Before I can say I don't know anything about it, everybody else guesses it will be the reviewing stand for the parade next Wednesday, on Bastille Day.

I am about to give the sage advice of carrying an umbrella for the Bastille Day parade, or mention how the city is annoyed about how the big tanks tear up the road surface, when Kathy says, "I bought my first macaroon and I'm saving it carefully until later!"

Me, I have no idea what a macaroon is. Kathy says it doesn't have coconut in it. Other members have mentioned macaroons in the past, and some members have seemed pretty excited about them. Kathy says they can be chocolate or café flavored. Whatever they are, they aren't like what you think they are, unless you've had the Paris version.

Before anybody can say more about crêpes, smoke, or macaroons, the club's number one member Heather Stimmler–Hall arrives. Heather hasn't been to club meetings lately because she's gotten into the tour business. With a bunch of kids on a bus, she was constantly saying, "Take off your headphones!"

Next, she gets to drive some sort of bus in something to do with another tour, that has something to do with the Tour de France. She will be doing this in the Pyrenees and in the Alps – driving along and picking up bike tourists before they get run over by the whole freaking Tour de France. It doesn't sound like a quiet pastime.

Heather is, or course, full of all sorts of arcane information about Paris. For example she says, "You can rent Segways from Flat Tire Tours."

Now I think of it, it is Diane who isphoto: tour de france teddy wearing a shirt with a 'Flat Tire' logo on it. I think she says it has something to do with a brewery. Imagine you are me. I cannot grasp why anybody would rent a Segway, and I cannot grasp why a brewery would call itself 'Flat Tire.' Maybe gremlins wrote these notes. Maybe they were written in a smokey crêperie in Tel Aviv.

This week's only 'Bear of the Week.'

"Quasimodo on a bike," is in my notes too, attributed, most likely falsely, to Mark. It is followed by a note, '16:10, drinks arrive.' These are several bowls of café, two viper green 'diable menthes,' and I don't know what else because the notes are silent on the subject.

Heather rushes off to deal with an empty parking metre, saying that she'll be available for the 'Group Photo of the Week' if she can find her car, has change, and can get back in time – and if not, she'll yodel from a nearby Alp.

Diane sweetly agrees to show us the Tour de France souvenirs she's liberated. We all admire the bear, even if we can't find its eyes. They are there, but this is a truly fluffy teddy – worth every darn euro it cost – with fluffy eyelids.

The meeting's discussions gradually fade out. When baggage becomes the subject, you know that members lead lives far more hectic than the club's part–time secretary. Nobody wants to go across town and liberate parked baggage and haul it to the other side of town. Yawn. Remember Nutley.

Some Price Hikes

The governments of France traditionally reserve 1. July for socking residents and taxpayers with higher charges, because most people are too distracted by impending holidays to go on strike to protest.

As of 1 July, the price of a carnet of ten RATP tickets climbed to 10.50€ from 10€. The average price increase was 3.5 percent. The SNCF raised prices too, for its Corail trains, kids and youngster's fares, and senior fares.

The Café Metropole Club's About Page

This 'report' about today's club's meeting is a rendering of an approximation of what happened at today's meeting. Thephoto: fleeting heather 'About the Café Metropole Club' page has some hard information, but you hardly need to know it. The best way to find out more about the club is by joining it. Then you will discover how simple it is.

You can become a real lifetime member too of this online magazine's real, live, and free club by becoming a member in a wink by signing–in yourself any of its meetings in Paris, for free. There are no hidden costs, real or imaginary, and anything to buy is totally optional unless you are thirsty.

Rare photo of fleeing Heather.

The club's 'rules' were demolished by the club's members long ago. The club's sole other distinction is that it is the only club related to an Internet magazine that still has no newsletter to send you. The mystery about when this will happen is a mystery.

What, When, Why Not, Who, How, Where?

The weekly club meetings begin about 15:00, on any days that are Thursday afternoons. Meetings continue until about 17:00, in the western European Time of Paris' – which is really 'CET' for short and not 'July's crummy times' although they sometimes are – and known elsewhere as 3 pm to 5 pm. Club meetings are held in Paris unless the secretary gets some other offer.

Doing anything clever at a meeting – like being at one – is considered the opposite of not being at one. True 'firsts' are welcome, with 'first' having a much greater 'clever' value than 'true.' 'True' is perfectly acceptable too, especially if it's a 'first.' Today's first was a lack of one. We've had a 'Segway' before.

One note of caution – you may have any one or two of a hundred personal reasons for not wanting to be traceable via the Web. If so, be sure to inform the club's secretary that you prefer to be '404 – not found' by Web search engines before becoming 'found' in one of these club reports.graphic: club location map

Former 'rules' remain 'former' week after endless week and have been purged from the club's huge volumes of chronicles except for all the originals still online buried deep in the archives, which you can read if you can find them.

Talking to other club members at meetings is an encouraged activity rather than optional. If there's an empty chair sit – still optional – wherever you like, or haul one over from another part of the café. Whatever you say may be honestly appreciated by other members present if they are listening, and there usually are some – and if it should chance to be written here, as half of it sometimes is.*

*The above paragraphs are relatively unchanged since last week because members seldom listen to headphones during routinely exciting meetings.

The café's location is:

Café–Tabac La Corona
2. Rue de l'Amiral de Coligny – or – 30. Quai du Louvre
Paris 1. Métro: Louvre–Rivoli, Pont–Neuf or Châtelet.
Every Thursday from 15:00 to 17:00.

A bientôt à Paris
signature, regards, ric

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