Paris Journal 2003

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Friday, July 4

Building in lower part of the 15th arrondisement.

Building in lower part of the 15th arrondisement.  We've been taking long walks through the 15th and 16th arrondisements in the past few days.

The Tour de France will be starting on Saturday, so we've been following the pre-Tour publicity in the newspapers and on TV.  Last night there was a big kick-off celebration on the patio in front of city hall, broadcast live on France 2 TV.   Rather than get caught up in the crowds in which you can't see anything, we had a leisurely and delicious dinner (after a 2 and a half hour walk) at Oh! Duo, where we are quickly becoming friends with the proprietors.  Dinner is very late, so we got home at about 9:30 and turned on the TV to watch the rest of the Tour show.   TV is a great way to work on improving our listening comprehension.

So earlier in the week, we were delighted to see the return of a show we watched on Tuesdays last summer - La Carte aux Tresors.  (Click here for last year's explanation of this show.)  This show is a real challenge for our listening comprehension because everyone is racing against the clock.  But it is fun and interesting, so we are very enthusiastic about watching it.  Now I know that this show happens only in the summer months of July and August.  The purpose is for (1) fun and (2) to educate the French about the wonders and culture of their land.  This summer's focus is on "secret France," so each week we will learn about a little known part of this wonderfully scenic and culturally rich country.  It was no accident, I think, that the locale chosen for this first show of the season was Charente -- Prime Minister Raffarin's homeland in the provinces. 

So, this week we learned about eel fishing, the art of making fine papers by hand, and the art of making barrels for Cognac.  La Carte aux Tresors is broadcast by France 3 which is right here in the 15th arrondisment.

Raffarin has stirred the pot lately with a comment he made about France not reaching paradise yet because it is stuck in purgatory due to the presence of too many socialists.   It was a comment made in jest, and too few people really understand that purgatory is a temporary stage.  The socialists have no sense of humor and are seeming to be mortally offended, calling for Chirac to fire Raffarin. 

"Primeurs" are vegetable merchants.  Rue St. Charles, in the 15th, has an open air market twice a week.

"Primeurs" are vegetable merchants.  Rue St. Charles, in the 15th, has an open air market twice a week.

I think they could have been more existentially funny by responding that France only thinks she is in purgatory because the socialists have rightfully reminded France of her shortcomings (sins), the problems that she still needs to resolve, in order to reach a better social order (heaven).  And, of course, thinking is reality because there is no real reality.  Something like that.Raffarin, by the way, is prone to making sweet, simple aphorisms sometimes (this wasn't one of them), and just as people collect and publish Bushisms in the U.S., these "Raffarinades" have been collected and published in a small volume.  Tom and I will find it and read it soon.

Other news, from Le Parisien:  Lance Armstrong arrived in Paris yesterday, along with his cook and bodyguard.  The car that brought him to his hotel, the Radisson, had dark tinted windows.  One of his first questions was "What are we going to eat this evening?"  He looks thin and hungry, but very cool in his new glasses.   They ended up eating with other team members in a private dining room, Gaia, which is decorated in black and white images of  his celebrated "homonyme," Louis Armstrong.

One of the many, many lovely little parks in the 15th arrondisement.

One of the many, many lovely little parks in the 15th arrondisement.

Other news, from the "Economy" section of Le Parisien:

Some bureaucrat evidently dared to suggest that stores be open on Sunday.  As it stands now, only a very few, "necessary" stores can open on Sunday - such as at least one bakery, one pharmacy, and one epicerie in each neighborhood.  Other than that, opening on Sunday is forbidden  -- even the big department stores can't do it.  Upon the announcement of this "project" for opening on Sunday, something exceptional happened:  The syndicates (five organizations for small shop owners) and 12 unions spoke with one voice to denounce the project.  Evidently a study done in 1994 showed that only big stores and shopping centers would benefit from being open Sunday, and small shops who don't have the means to make these changes would suffer.   Some people said that family life would take a sacred hit.  No one is concerned for religious reasons -- it is simply the way of life that is being protected here.

Angel in the Grenelle Cemetery in the 15th.

Angel in the Grenelle Cemetery in the 15th.

Speaking of way of life, I made that pilgrimage to the SNCF boutique again this summer, this time to buy train tickets for our trip to Strasbourg next week.  I dutifully took my number, waited, but then snuck out to buy newspapers.  I did get back before my number was called, but I earned a nasty glare from one of the two SNCF bureaucrats working there.  After all, we the clients are expected to wait patiently and if we are bored, we must read the promotional brochures on the wall rack, certainly not newspapers!   All was forgiven by the time I reached her desk, and I got the tickets.  Whew.   At least there is a new SNCF boutique right in our neighborhood, so the pilgrimage isn't so long.

SNCF has been attacking graffiti tags.  Each year, they spend 5 million euros on cleaning graffiti off the trains.  The drawings are often "disgracieux" and add to the sense of unsafeness in the trains.  In 2002, SNCF came up with a clever, computerized system for tracking the tags.  The information from the system has led to 113 arrests of taggers in the left bank region of Paris.  The offenders can be fined several thousand dollars.  SNCF knows that one tag attracts more tags, so the graffiti is erased as quickly as possible.

We had a glorious walk to and through Parc Andre Citroen on Wednesday (see photos below) and another one up to Jardins du Ranelagh in the 16th yesterday.  Dinner on Wednesday was at L'Epopée again - wonderful!  Love that curry sauce on prawn ravioli.  And Tuesday's dinner was found at Restaurant Le Boudoir - a great value!

Photos from Parc Andre Citroen:

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citwaterbal.jpg (42852 bytes) citbal.jpg (23416 bytes)
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