Paris Journal 2005

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

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One of the big controversies in my hometown in Florida is whether or not to widen the shared use paths (aka bike paths) to 12 feet.  Here is one of the many bike baths in Paris – this one in the middle of a boulevard called Cours Albert 1er.  It isn’t anything like 12 feet wide.  Notice the tall, perfectly trimmed chestnut trees.  So very French!


Another controversy back home is whether or not to allow Segways on the shared use paths.  Segways are a rare sight in Paris, and they are highly restricted to certain areas.  Here they are on a very wide path in the Champ de Mars.  Even here, however, I find them obnoxious and disturbing when they come up from behind and whirr past me during my morning walks.  They seem to be big and awkward.  These two people look perfectly capable of walking, don’t they?


Poster on Montmartre.


I don’t know why a monument in the Champ de Mars has this carving of a turtle carrying a house with two people standing in front.  Any ideas, anyone?  Sign the guest book and tell me.  If you want to be anonymous to the rest of the world, click on “private entry.”


L’Antre Amis is unusual in that it is closed on Saturday!  (Open Monday through Friday.)  It is also open in August.  This resto takes its vacation during the week of Christmas.




Whew! More than a week away from the Journal!  So much has happened in the meantime.  Most importantly, we had a thoroughly enjoyable long weekend visit from our English friends, Carol and Ron.  The four of us managed to walk all over Paris, it seems.


This will probably be a short entry because I’ll have to go watch the Discovery landing, hopefully in about one hour.  (We do get cable news here, so that even if French TV doesn’t cover the landing live, CNN Europe or BBC will.) 


That reminds me.  I’ve noticed that many people assume that because we are in Paris we know nothing of what is going on back home in Florida or, if they live here, they think we know nothing of what is happening here.  However, we know as much as we possibly could.  We read three newspapers a day (two French and one English), and I read the Fort Myers, Florida, newspaper online.  We also get CNN news headlines and New York Times headlines in our e-mail.  And we have a customized Yahoo! Home page that brings us the top news from around the world, in two languages.  We read about French politics extensively.  And I get all kinds of U.S. Democratic Party news in my e-mail.  My e-mail brings me every news release, city council agenda, and planning commission agenda from my hometown.  And I get hoards of e-mail about goings-on in my hometown.  I watch the French news almost every day as well.  With our high-speed internet connection, I can watch news video clips from the U.S.  I don’t think we are missing anything, except perhaps the obscure.


My mother and father are now back home in Florida after wandering about the upper midwestern U.S. for a while.  So I better get busy on this journal or else my mom will be fretting about what has happened to us.


On Sunday, we went with our fine English friends to two (!) museums.  The national museums have free entry on Sundays, so we took advantage.  We first took in the Victor Hugo museum in the Place des Vosges in the Marais neighborhood (right bank, eastern part of center city – VERY old). 


After that, we went to one of my favorites:  Musée Carnavalet, featuring the history of Paris.  This museum has a fabulous collection of old signs from old shops.  There are also models of various neighborhoods they way they used to look before urban renewal or Haussmann got their hands on them.  Many of the paintings depict Paris from various days long past.  The last time I went to this museum, I didn’t know Paris as well as I do now.  This most recent visit was fascinating.  I’d recommend this museum to newcomers who want to get a good idea of what Paris has been and is, and to the flâneuse who knows Paris like the back of her hand.  (A flâneuse is a person who wanders without prejudice, abandoning herself to the impression or the spectacle of the moment.  It is flâneur for the men.)


In addition to being a fun and fascinating museum, the Carnavalet is also one of the few remaining great old houses in the Marais.  While it was originally built in 1548, it was renovated and given its current exterior appearance in 1655.  It includes three garden courts.  Fabulous carved lions guard the entrance.


The Discovery has landed safely.  Sigh of relief.  Tom just said he remembers where we were when the Columbia disaster occurred.  We were in a shop in lovely Seaside, Florida, on our way to Alabama to see friends.  It was shocking to look up at the TV screen in the shop to see such a tragedy.  Everybody in the shop was stone silent.


One of the commentators that CNN Europe had on hand just now to talk about the shuttle was Kathy Sullivan, who now directs the Center of Science and Industry (COSI) museum in Columbus, Ohio, where we lived for three decades.  The other former astronaut that CNN featured was our the very honorable former Senator from Ohio, John Glenn, Democrat.  There is now, by the way, a John Glenn Institute for Public Policy at The Ohio State University, the school where we worked for decades.


Okay, enough about Ohio.  Back to Paris.


We hopped on the Batobus with Carol and Ron one day recently.  This is an alternative way to get around Paris.  For 11 euros, you can get an all-day pass to take the Batobus along the Seine.  There are eight stops, and the Seine is a pretty convenient route through the city because of the way it curves as it flows through town.  Rather then hop on and off, we just took the round-trip and enjoyed the view.  It was a good way to see Paris Plage without having to walk through the crowd.  Our guide’s commentaries were very brief, but he did the whole thing in three languages!


Paris Plage, by the way, will end on August 21.  That is the date that Parisians begin to come back from vacation, and our favorite restaurants will begin to open again.  Now, with the end of the first week of August behind us, we face the quietest period in Paris.  We went to Le Bayadère on the rue du Théâtre with Carol, Ron, and our California friend, Gerry, on Friday night, only to learn that even Le Bayadère is closing for a week or two for renovations.  We were there on the last night before closing.  Last year, I believe they stayed open through August, and we counted on that.  Oh well.  After a delicious dinner, we wished them luck with the work.


The absolute quietest day of the quietest time in Paris is August 15, the Feast of the Assumption.  My recollection is that almost everything is closed on that day, which will be next Monday.  We need not starve, however.  Le Tipaza will be open.  We also went there one lovely evening with Carol and Ron.  Mohammed was very happy to see us.  He even gave us each a very cool ballpoint pen with Le Tipaza’s address on it.  Three of us had various tagines, and Tom had a delicious steak with béarnaise sauce.


Unfortunately, we had some fairly mediocre lunches when we were out walking with our English friends in Paris.  On behalf of Paris and French food, I was embarrassed.  We would just pick a brasserie that looked okay and we’d collapse at one of their tables.  The food was generally bland and not well served at these places.  It makes us appreciate our good neighborhood brasserie, La Tour Eiffel, even more.  One of these lunch places was so bad that I must mention them by name.  They advertised on their doors that they accepted credit cards, but nobody’s card seemed to work there.  I have been concerned after they scanned two of our cards, and then claimed they didn’t work.  I’m now checking those cards online every day.  The food was not acceptable either.  Ron and I ordered a duck and foie gras salad, which was served with no duck and a double portion of foie gras.  Some explanation should have been given before serving it to us like that.  At any rate, do NOT go to L’Ecritoire, 3 place de la Sorbonne, in the 5th arrondissement.  (And by the way, all of our cards DO work.)


To be fair, I must also mention that we went to dinner at L’Antre Amis one night with Carol and Ron.  I was a bit concerned when we arrived because with one exception, it was all new faces working there.  In the past, there have been only men working there (and we think, perhaps, all gay men).  But among the staff this past weekend was a young woman!  She was our server.  She wanted to speak English with us, because, she said, she just got back from spending 5 months in California (Fresno, unfortunately).  So we chatted for a while, and we explained that Carol and Ron were from England, and we were from Florida.  She said how much she liked Florida, and that she used to take many vacations there with her family.  I asked where.  When she said “Sanibel,” I nearly fell out of my chair.  It is so rare to find a French person who knows about our island paradise.


The food at L’Antre Amis was delicious as always – maybe even better than ever.  I liked the new, temporary August staff very much.  I was sad to hear that one of the partners/owners is very ill.  I see on the web that there are three chefs at L’Antre Amis.  I wonder which one was working there that night – he is the best.



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