Paris Journal 2003

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Wednesday, June 18  

Young girl playing the accordian on Montmartre.  Her mother was watching from a nearby van.

Young girl playing the accordian on Montmartre. Her mother was watching from a nearby van.

Monday was the reduced-admission day at the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais.  We'd been wanting to see the current exhibition, "Chagall Connu et Inconnu," so off we went.  There was quite a crowd there.  The exhibition is a huge overview of Chagall's work from 1910 to the 1980s -- mostly works he painted in Russia and France, but there were a few paintings from the 1940s that he did while in New York.  He managed to have a style all his own, with a very bright palette.

In the evening, we ate at Le Bistrot des Cigales (49, rue du Theatre, 45-75-91-62).  We were trying to go to Pastel (51, rue du Theatre), but it was closed for renovations.  Pastel seems to change hands every year!

But Les Cigales did not disappoint.  It has Provencale cuisine, as did Pastel, but it is a slightly smaller operation.  Tom had a tomato tart that was outstandingly good -- made with excellent goat cheese and pesto.  We both had the special of the evening, a saute of pork with a rich brown sauce, olives, etc.  The pork was so tender it just fell apart.  Yummmm.

A lovely house on Montmartre.

A lovely house on Montmartre.

Last night, we went back to a favorite place from years past, L'Epopee (89 av. Emile Zola, 45-77-71-37).  It was almost as good as I remembered.   I had the prawn ravioli - it comes with a curry sauce that would make our friend Bob E. drool.  Tom had escargot, and it was garlicy and great.  For the main course, I had a fish called dorade, which I loved in past years, but this year it was a bit dry.  However, the wonderful sauce made up for it.  Tom had lamb noisettes, and they were tasty, not overcooked, and beautifully presented.  Nice sauce, too. 

We've been reading a lot, including the French newspapers.  Here are some tidbits from Le Parisien:

werbul1a.gif (168 bytes) Recent polls show that Jacques Chirac, like Jean-Pierre Raffarin, have declining popularity.   Chirac's approval rating has dropped from 57% to 45%.  Factors include the reform of the public service employees retirement system, high unemployment, and world peace (or lack thereof).

werbul1a.gif (168 bytes)   The public service strikes seem to have petered out for now, but the organizers are threatening to start them up again in the fall, when summer vacatioins are over.

werbul1a.gif (168 bytes)   The ancient flower market on the ile de la Cite will be closed for 8 to 14 months while the metro station beneath it is being renovated.  The flower vendors are being moved to temporary locations, but they worry that their business will not be the same and that they'll lose clients.  Some of the vendors' families have been selling flowers there for generations.

montmartrhouse.jpg (27618 bytes) And from the International Herald Tribune's editorial page:

werbul1a.gif (168 bytes)  Europe subsidizes its agriculture to the tune of $50 billion per year.  This hurts poor people in Third World countries tremendously.  

werbul1a.gif (168 bytes)   "Air pollution is killing almost half a million Asians every year as vehicles that would be banned in Europe or North America clog cities, factory owners ignore pollution control measures that have long been standard in developed countries, and governments fail to enforce laws to prevent bad air."  We notice the air pollution here in Paris every summer; just think how bad it must be in Hong Kong!

Friday, June 20

Photo from Le Parisien, June 19, 2003.

Photo from Le Parisien, June 19.  According to the paper, two women and one man set themselves on fire in a terrible response to the spectacular police round-up of many Moujahidin of the People of Iran in Paris and elsewhere in France.


I've forgotten to take the camera with me during the past two days, so these pictures are from Le Parisien, and the ones below are leftovers from last summer.  Forgive me, dear readers.

On Wednesday, we started out thinking we'd just be shopping because all the stores along our rue du Commerce - just around the corner from our apartment - were having sidewalk sales.  But the prices and merchandise weren't interesting so we kept walking down through the 15th arrondisment to Square St. Lambert, and then on to Square Georges Brassens. 

Thank heavens we did not go in the other direction in the 15th.  You probably read or heard in the news about three protesters in Paris setting themselves on fire.   That happened right here in the 15th.  If we had walked up to the Seine, as we often do, we may have seen this terrible event.  But my guess is that when we saw the demonstration, we'd have steered clear of it.

We've read the French and English newspapers to learn more about this.   I'm still not sure why everyone considers this group to be "terrorists," but probably there will be more in today's papers.

Photo from Le Parisien, June 19, 2003.

Another photo from Le Parisien, June 19.   Other demonstrators, bystanders, and finally the pompiers tried to put out the fires.

When the papers went to press, all three -- two women and one man -- were still alive.   There is a huge hospital (the Georges Pompidou) very near where the demonstration occurred.

What the papers did not say is that on the very site of Wednesday's terrible event once stood the Velodrome d'Hiver.  This was the scene of one of the Vichy regime's lowest moments, and I've written about it in the 2001 journal
(see ).

Rue Nelaton, just off the Blvd. de Grenelle, is steeped in tragedy.

If I'd had the camera with me on Wednesday, I'd be showing you pictures of adults sunning themselves in Square St. Lambert, and children playing in Square Georges Brassens.  

Nice cat that lives aboard the boat, the Julia, on the Seine.

Guard cat for the Julia, a boat on the Seine.

Yesterday, we walked all the way over to the Luxembourg Gardens.

Very soon after we started out, we ran into a massive demonstration.  This one consisted of thousands of public service workers, mostly teachers, demonstrating against the Raffarin administration's reform of the retirement system to keep it from going bankrupt. 

Most of these demonstrators would have to work for a couple more years before retiring, if the reform goes through as planned.  The demonstration had traffic snarled in the vicinity of Square Cambronne.  We enjoyed watching the parade and listening to the chants.  Then we went on to the Luxembourg Gardens, where we had drinks at an outdoor cafe in the park.  After, we had dinner again at Le Petit Prince, then took the Metro home.

chatcloseup.jpg (8652 bytes) Wednesday's dinner was at one of our "regular" old haunts, L'Antre Amis (9, rue Bouchot, 45-67-15-65).  Again, people were warm, welcoming, and sweet as can be.  We had steaks that were surprisingly good (I guess we don't need hormones in our beef after all).  They came with french fries that were excellent - probably the best I've ever tasted - but we only just tasted them because we're trying to stick to the low-carb diet.  This resto is in a corner of the 15th that really juts into the 7th arrondisement.  It is our favorite neighborhood - if we ever bought an apartment in Paris, I'd want it to be there.

The Pasteur Institute is nearby, and it looks like docs and researchers from there patronize L'Antre Amis.

A fine house in the 16th arrondisement. The strikes over the reform of the retirement system in France made the trains, busses and metro unreliable for the past couple weeks.  Although the strikes are over for the time being, for some reason people have not gone back to public transport.  As a result, traffic jams are still bad in and around Paris.

Since the beginning of the month, there is a daily average of 255 kilometers of  bottlenecks ("bouchons") in the Paris region.  The peek was 270 km in 2002.  Some drivers blame the bottlenecks on the proliferation of bus-only lanes on many of Paris's boulevards.  But the mayor's administration says that the evidence does not point to the bus lanes as the problem.  The problem is people not wanting to give up their cars.  The mayor's transportation expert, Denis Baupin, says that 75% of Parisians favor the bus-only lanes.  He claims that 99% of the people tell him they want more bicycle lanes, more public transport service, and less traffic in their neighborhoods.   Yet the vast majority are against mass transport and walking when it comes to themselves - the vast majority go by automobile.

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