Paris Journal 2003

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Wednesday, July 16

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Bastille Day Fireworks

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The fireworks on Bastille day were delayed by one hour due to technical difficulties (un probleme de cadrage de tir - a problem with the firing mechanism?) and because someone walked on the cables around the equipment.

We waited and watched from the apartment windows.

Security was heavy at the fireworks, as it was earlier in the day for the parade.   People were not allowed to stand along the sidewalk and watch the military parade -- they had to have seats in specially cordoned-off areas.  There was a protected zone all around the Champs Elysees in every direction.

Overall, people are feeling much safer in Paris these days.  Crime is down, and the feeling of insecurity is down, according to the polls.  It is called the Sarkozy effect.  The increased security measures and regulations put in place by Nicholas Sarkozy are being credited with the change.

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We've noticed the change.  We were robbed by a pickpocket in the metro station in August of 2000, right at the end of our stay.  It resulted in a broken arm for Tom.  (Hey, Mom & Dad, did you really save the piece that I wrote about that awful experience??   I hope so.)

That experience made us distrust Paris for a little while, although we still loved it.  But we noticed the malefactors around us more than before.   Now, it seems there are fewer malefactors around to notice.

Europe's open borders make it very tough to crack down on illegal immigrants.  And the illegal immigrants were a big source of crime.  But security czar Sarkozy has come up with something that seems to be working.

feu3.jpg (15204 bytes) My dear friend Wendy asked a while ago if the French were still being tough about forbidding the use of English words in the French language.  It seems to be a losing battle, but they're still at it, I guess.  According to a recent news item, the term "courriel," invented in the 1990s and largely used by the French speakers in Quebec in place of the word "e-mail," has been published in the Journal officiel on June 20 as the word that must be used instead of  "e-mail" in the French government.

The Journal officiel contains the laws and decrees passed by the French government, and I think it is published daily, like the Federal Register.

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There is an interesting article in Le Parisien today about the healing and soothing effects produced by the sound of a cat purring.  (Read more about this in English at .)

It seems that a veterinarian in Toulouse, Jean-Yves Gauchet, conducted a little study on his own, with his cat, Rouky.  He recorded 30 minutes of Rouky's purr, and tried it out on a number of people.  Their stress levels seemed to go down noticeably after listening to Rouky's song.  A pseudo-scientific journal, Effervesciences, is now marketing the Rouky CD at -- no kidding.  It costs 15 euros.

For you francophones, below is the beginning of Dr. Gauchet's article on the subject:

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1- les mystères du ronronnement

La plupart des félins, depuis le chat domestique jusqu'au lion et la panthère, peuvent émettre une vibration profonde et caractéristique: c'est le ronronnement !
Ce ronronnement commence dès le plus jeune âge, et se poursuit très tard. Et bizarrement, on n'en connait pas le mécanisme.

On a longtemps cru à une vibration de replis du larynx, mais des félins ayant subi (Hardie et al- 1981) une laryngectomie continuent de ronronner. Le diaphragme a été évoqué (Stogdale-1985), mais le consensus actuel suggère que le ronronnement est le résultat de mouvements sanguins dans la veine cave : cette veine se rétrécit pour passer dans le foie et le diaphragme, et dans certains états neurovégétatifs, le sang formerait des remous dans cette sorte de goulot, ceci provoquerait des vibrations dans tout le corps, jusque dans les cavités crâniennes du sinus par l'intermédiaire de la trachée artère.

En fait, " tout vibre ", et le chat présente une attitude caractéristique de " laisser aller ".  Attitude que l'on a longtemps confondu avec un " gros bonheur".  Mais des félins en état de grande souffrance, ou de grande inquiétude sont également susceptibles de ronronner.

feu8.jpg (13798 bytes) The work to install Paris Plage (Paris Beach) began last night.  Tons of sand and lots of palm trees are being moved to the right bank of the Seine in the middle of the city.   The Plage opens and the road shuts down on July 20.  This year's Plage will go for 4 weeks.  It is an enormously popular summer attraction in Paris -- one that we went to last year, and we won't miss this year.

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The weather has cooled down, thank heavens.  It was about 93 degrees F here yesterday.  With no air conditioning, that is a bit warm, even for South Floridians.  

Last night, we chose to eat dinner at one of our favorite restaurants that HAS AIR CONDITIONING!  Le Tire Bouchon did not disappoint.   I'd say it was about 72 degrees F and the food was fine.  I had a Bavarois de chevre with sundried tomatoes and pesto for an appetizer, and then a grilled fish called sabre that came with a tandoori yogurt sauce and marinated sautéed cucumbers.  With that, I had a provencal rose wine, which is nice and dry -- not like those awful rose wines made in the U.S. 

feueiffel.jpg (21680 bytes) The rose wine here isn't considered to be really fine wine, but it is appreciated in summer because it is light and tastes nice when chilled and served with fish, salads, and other summer fare.  Tom had a slice of leg of lamb, served with pureed potatoes that had lots of olive oil in them.  For his appetizer, Tom had a taboule with melon, served with a refreshing mint sauce.  He had ice cream for dessert, and I had a chocolate soup with a compote of apricots and almonds.  We must stop this dessert business, but it was included in the 20 euro fixed price dinner, so we didn't resist.  The service at Le Tire Bouchon is always warm and friendly.

It rained during dinner, and by the time we were walking home, the temperatures had dropped noticeably. 

This morning was still a bit muggy, and I discovered I didn't have enough cream for my morning decaf.  So, I ventured out, thinking I'd take advantage of the early hour to do an errand at the post office.  Evidently, that's when most people go to the post office -- about 8am.  There was a long line.  But I waited it out, because waiting in line is a very French thing to do.  Especially in Paris.  People do lots of bureaucratic business at the post office.  Not just mail and passports.   There are phone cards, and all kinds of other cards that can be purchased there.   And if you have a registered letter or package to pick up, you are required to wait at the window for another 15 minutes after waiting in line for a half hour.  Okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but the waiting time is long, and it seems like La Poste is trying to do too many things.

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