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One More Time

photo, ile st louis, quay

Paris–Plage by do–it–yourself.

Summer Bis

Paris:– Sunday, 28. August 2005:– There is an autumnal tang to the air in the morning but there is a forecast for clear skies and a temperature worthy of July later on so I scrap my weekly plan to plow the fields of the magazine's event columns, in favor of the right now. It is so rare to have 'last, best days' at the end of August. The likelihood of it is never.

Around here it is a sleepy Sunday, with the sunlight bursting atomically down narrow streets, feeling full and round as if it has bulk, mass or weight, yet it is just heavy enough so that it does not feel reed–thin like September. It is an illusion, because it creates shadows that blot the light, creating geometries of inky blue.

Along by the cemetery the high trees act as contrast filters, laying the ground with stone and earth tones. The tree trunks are not as dappled as they can get, they are mostly shades of dull light green, and they go up high to leaves that are perfectly green against the blue of the sky. It is almost like a tunnel in woods, this street–wide forested corridor.

The remarkable aspect of the Métro is that it's running at all. You'd think the motormen would havephoto, shop epices delices called 'time out' for an exceptional Sunday. At the second station, Montparnasse, about 300 travellers get on the train with all their bottled water, luggage and back packs – they probably arrived together on a train from southwest vacationland.

After hopping over a big sack to get out, most of the travellers stay on the train when I leave it at Châtelet. My guess is that they are making the connection with Gare du Nord, maybe even with Eurostar. The crosstown line one train rustles into the station within two minutes and I ride it standing up to Saint–Paul.

This is my destination and my starting point. There is an alley here opposite the Métro station. It is to be worth a photo and then I will walk down it, thinking of 500 years ago and then follow my nose.

But it is not worth a photo, on account of a few cars in it. I shoot the merry–go–round instead, discounting how it will fit the 'theme of the day.' Then I turn 180 degrees and cross Rivoli and follow the sunshine into the Rue Pavée.

On this 'last best day' of the year, the Marais is full of vacationers who have beat the rush to be back, enjoying their reward for cleverness. There are mobs wandering around in holiday clothes, enough so you'd think the mayor asked everybody who spent a month on Paris–Plage, to come out one more time.

The Rue des Rosiers, almost totally in deep shadow, is half dug up with roadworks and half open, and everybody who might fit in the closed shops is in the narrow street. You could say it is a fair crowd for a day in the bazar, and the confusion of construction elements gives it a feel of the Middle East, except that it's half closed.

The sun is full in the face on the way back to Rivoli and I turn west and then go south again, cross and getphoto, shop, glups, bonbons to François Miron, and then amble west some more to the Rue des Barres, behind Saint–Gervais. A tea shop has parasols and tables out on the cobbles and a terrace without shadows. It could be at La Rochelle, rather than in the centre of Paris.

The Louis Philippe café on the quay is hiding its outside customers behind and under greenery like a jungle. Beyond it the bridge of the same name leads to the island, washed in vibrating sunlight. Islanders, even if they aren't, dot the tip of the Quai Bourbon, effortlessly helping the afternoon along.

An army is occupying the centre of the Ile Saint–Louis. There are more heads, shirts, sunglasses, baby strollers, in the deep shadow further than I can see. Another army seems to be besieging the ice cream outlet near the bridge. And, as on most other high volume days, the Oasis is closed.

Alley number two, the mysterious Rue des Chantres, will do finely for the photo I started out to get. A wooded door with iron studs in the adjacent Rue des Ursins is a bonus.

A bit of this and a bit of that puts me in the park at the rear of Notre Dame. There are a lot of folks on the benches under the lines of trees, and many of them are listening to a freelance string quartet of kids, amplified a little. When a piece finishes applause is warm.

The light is very bright by the south side of the cathedral. At its front there are more crowds basking in thephoto, rue st louis en l'ile vast space, and a long line of the devout or curious are snaking their way along to one of the huge portals. That nobody dresses for this makes me think that Disney could manage the place.

On the little bridge, the Pont Au Double, the skaters are amusing several hundred free entertainment fans who are jostling for good photo ops. The half–shaded Square Viviani on the Left Bank is as deserted as usual. Further along Shakespeare is open, its facade renovated, and the café terraces are full of the thirsty.

On the Ile Saint–Louis.

On Saint–Jacques there's a gang of 60–year old hippies wearing white baseball caps, hung up on whether to cross or not. A hustling clochard raspberries them before taking up a station in the Rue de la Huchette.

This is, along with the companion Saint–Séverin and Harpe, the gaudy local stew of fooding. A few small streets in the 5th, certified originally Roman, but traceable for names to the 13th century, as in Hôtel des Abbés de Pontigny, from 1292. Containing perhaps the densest concentration of no–star restaurants and snack boutiques, certainly in the city. Never deserted attests to popularity if not quality.

All the streets, avenues and boulevards, are in use by Parisians on foot and the Boulevard Saint–Michel is no exception. Maybe folks have feet tired from a month of sand, maybe it's their last walk of the year. Whichever, the weather is right, perfect for it.

The Rostand corner by the Luxembourg Garden has its share of sun worshipers in the cafés, and many strollers in the shade are viewing the photographs hung on the fence outside the garden. Inside there is a lot of shade under the trees and most of the tables around the chalet are occupied. It is the nearest it's ever looked like a popular beer garden. And it has beer too.

In the afternoon the shadows are longer and the green of leaves almost glistens. The Senat's flowerbeds are precise, flanked by emerald grass, and the gravel is near white. The fountain at the centre of the basin shoots up a modest column of water, sitters sit, and sailors keep track of their rented sailboats. The great oval of space, full of people with elbowroom, waits for the end of the day, the end of summer. The palms ask for more.

Further up Saint–Michel auxiliary police are keeping cars out of a Sunday pedestrian area near the garden. The fountain in the Marco Polo garden is not playing with its water but it is not dry either. More people are hiking south towards Denfert–Rochereau.

For all those who have been out in the air on their feet it is the time to find a café terrace and accept a bit of liquid self–reward. It is the time to cross 't's and dot 'i's and add up the summer, or just add another 45 minutes to it.

Since we have no Labor Day here, having the summer end in glory especially in the form of a perfectphoto, maison de gyros, 47 summer day, is a cool way to end a deserved and popular season. Is everyone in a good mood?

At home tonight the TV–news will report on the weekend's political conferences. These are held every year at the same time, and with a straight face, they are called 'Université d'Eté.' Another report showed kids in special classes, organized by their parents. They were cramming to make up for all they've forgotten in the last two months. Still other reports, back at the beginning of August, showed moms in the hypermarchés buying school supplies. Some poor kids are already back in class because their schools have four–day weeks, and they have to head start to keep up. The country pretends to go on holidays, and pretends not to worry about them.

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