Paris Journal 2005

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Sign my guestbook. View my guestbook.                  <Previous           Next>


Today’s ozone peaks in France, from Prev’Air.


Restaurant boat on the Seine.  Note that the palm trees are really just palm fronds in a metal cage/stand.  Workers are setting them up in this scene.


Lovely lights adorn the entrance to a luxury hotel just off of the rue de Rivoli.

Today is a lovely day in Paris.  The air quality has improved to “average” (not as good as “good” or “very good,” but a huge improvement over “bad.”)


Today I am a writer in Paris.  Well, I’m only writing headnotes, but nevertheless I am writing for a book that will be published in 2006.  My laptop occupies the dining room table, and I sit before it, looking past it through the open French doors, over the flower-laden balcony, to the view of blue sky and Parisian rooftops.  It is a Sunday, on a holiday weekend, so there isn’t so much noise and traffic.  I just hear pleasant sounds of people going about their Sunday errands down on the street. 


The weather people said it would be 33C/92F today in Paris.  But it is now already 1:15 in the afternoon, and the thermometer reads just 26C/79F.  A cool breeze wafts through the apartment from the kitchen window, and exiting out the French window I just described.


It is true that in the south of France, the soaring temperatures are a bit more of a problem.  The heat caused much suffering among the Tour de France riders yesterday.  Riders poured gallons of water over themselves through the course of the day.  Today may well be the same.  Lance says today will be the hardest day of the Tour.  We aren’t going to start watching it until 4PM. 


What is a canicule, or heat wave, officially?  According to yesterday’s edition of Le Figaro, the weather experts at Météo France have defined it as a time when the low temperatures will be above 20C/68F at night and the high temperatures will be at least 34C/93.5F in the daytime for at least three consecutive days.


Xavier Bertrand, the “new” minister of health (appointed after the old one was fired in the aftermath of the 2003 heat wave that claimed tens of thousands of French lives), isn’t waiting for the canicule to arrive.  He has already released 26 million euros for the old people’s homes and the home health care agencies to use to increase their supplies and workers in the event of a canicule.


The health officials warn that when there is a peak of ozone levels, old people, young children, and asthmatics must take care.  Le Figaro reports, “In France, one study done by the World Health Organization and the National Health Watch Institute estimates that pollution in general, and due to ozone most importantly, ‘is responsible for 30,000 anticipated deaths’ as reported to the Minister of Ecology.”


Now that is one shocking figure.  The article doesn’t say over what period of time these deaths would occur.  A year?  Five years? Who knows?  I assume they mean that these deaths would occur in France.  My scientist friend Alan did say once that what killed many people in the 2003 canicule was the air pollution, not just the heat.


The ozone is a result of the heat cooking auto exhaust and oil-based paint fumes (nitrogen dioxide, I believe?) into ozone.  For several years, three types of actions have been taken to deal with this pollution problem.  1.  Steps have been taken to help old people and others at risk during heat waves.  2.  Manufacturers are being asked to promote and make more water-based paint and less oil-based paint.  3.  Drivers are being asked to slow down because driving slower creates fewer emissions.  Then there is another request I don’t fully understand; it has to do with recuperating vapors when trucks and cars fill up their gas tanks.


These actions have already helped, supposedly, because the major pollutants, including ozone, have been reduced by 20 percent in 5 years.  However, those figures might be revised due to the ozone peaks in 2003 and this year.  We will get a report on this at the end of the summer, according to Le Figaro.


Enough of that serious stuff.  On to food.  We dined at Le Bistro Champêtre last night (107, rue Saint-Charles, Telephone 01-45-77-85-06).  We should have stopped after our main courses, because everything after that declined.  The dessert, an apple tart with calvados burned on it, was not good.  Tom’s decaf expresso took FOREVER to arrive.  If we hadn’t stayed for dessert, we could have taken a nice, long after-dinner walk.


But the appetizer, 12 wonderful escargot cooked in garlic, butter and herbs, was delightful.  I had dorade and eggplant, both of which were very good, even if the eggplant didn’t look good.  Tom had a beef brochette with fries.  Both were good.  The prices are very reasonable at Le Bistro Champêtre, and it is somewhat air conditioned.  It is a large restaurant – a part of a chain of 6 or so restos – so you don’t really have to reserve, but it isn’t a bad idea.


I had to come to the rescue of a table of Americans next to us.  The man at the table was desperately trying to ask the waiter if he rode a motorcycle.  Why, I do not know.  The American man was speaking in English, not knowing any French, and his wife knew very, very little French.  The three grown children each knew about three words in French.  The waiter knows enough English to take food orders, but no more.  The American man would not give up.  He tried a dozen words for motorcycle, and the waiter just looked confused.  So I finally leaned over and said, “c’est une moto.”  The entire table thanked me, and the waiter finally was able to answer that he drives a car, not a moto.  Bizarre moments.


Sign my guestbook. View my guestbook.                  <Previous           Next>