Paris Journal 2003

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Monday, July 7

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This is how the Eiffel Tower looks now, during the first 10 minutes of each hour from nightfall to 2:10a.m.  It glitters with brightly flashing lights.  This pic was taken from inside the study in the apartment -- through old wavy glass in the French-door/window.   Hence, there is some distortion that makes the tower look a little bent.   Notice the search light spinning from the top of the tower.  It is stunningly beautiful at night.  The dark shadow at the bottom is one of the many chimney pots we see when we look out from the apartment.

There were so many things we could do this past weekend.  On Saturday, we could have joined the massive crowds very near our apartment to watch the Tour de France begin.  It started from in front of the Eiffel Tower, and went in a circle through Paris, ending up by the Ecole Militaire, very near us.

But the legendary jazz saxophonist, Wayne Shorter, was giving a free concert -- part of the Paris Jazz Festival -- at Parc Floral in the Bois de Vincennes.

So we took a very, very long metro ride out to the edge of Paris, to the stop in front of the Chateau de Vincennes, and then walked through an allee of tall chestnut and plane trees, between the Chateau and Fort Neuf (a military installation behind nice stone walls), to reach the beautiful Parc Floral.  We did have to pay 3 euros each to enter the park, but that's a bargain.  We were late, but Wayne Shorter was VERY late -- due to traffic jams caused by the Tour de France, I think.  Tom managed to get a seat in the covered seating area.  I got a place where I could lean against or sit on top of a railing.  I preferred being there because I could do a lot of people watching and I could move around a little.  The concert was long, and it was the type of jazz that is very modern and unstructured.  Tom loved watching the drummer, who was fantastic.   I loved watching the people from behind my dark glasses.

The crowd was wildly enthusiastic, insisting on four encores.  And the crowd was huge, considering not just the people up on the concrete platform with us, but also all the people scattered with picnic cloths on acres of lawns surrounding the platform and lake. 

It takes a fairly sophisticated jazz fan to appreciate this music.  Evidently, there are a great many sophisticated jazz fans in Paris.

During the announcements made before the concert, some mention was made about the fact that Wayne Shorter is American, and about Bush and the war in Iraq.  Tom and I could not hear well enough to make it out, but the crowd was calm and quiet, and nobody jeered at the musicians (as evidently some French crowds have jeered at American athletes in sporting events here).  From what I can gather by reading the American and French newspapers, there are many more incidents of Americans behaving badly toward French people than vice versa.

Magnolia blossom.

Magnolia blossom on one of the many Southern Magnolia (or very similar species) trees in the Parc Andre Citroen.  We love the abundant parks, small and large, in Paris.

Everyone has been warm and friendly with us.  And Lance Armstrong told a reporter from Le Figaro that he has been extremely warmly received in France this year, better even than in any prior year.  Forget what the New York Times/International Herald Tribune reported about the French snubbing Lance by not inviting him to their 4th of July party.  Lance didn't feel snubbed.  I suppose they couldn't invite the entire team to the exclusive party.  

Henri Sannier, who hosts the two daily shows about the Tour on France 3 TV  every day until it ends, wrote a glowing article about Lance for Le Figaro's TV magazine.  He said, "More than his cycling achievements and his probable 5th victory on the Tour, it is his personal story, his battles, and his professionalism that fascinate me."  He went on to call Lance a good professional, a good communicator, a good comrade, and a grand champion.   Go Henri!  Go Lance!

We were so starved when we got home from our long Saturday at the Bois de Vincennes that we finally went to Stephane Martin for dinner (67, rue des Entrepreneurs, 45-79-03-31).  I can't tell you how much we have been looking forward to this, but we had to wait until we were VERY hungry.

Row of magnolias in Parc Andre Citroen.

The magnolia trees are trimmed up into columns that form an elegant, long allee at one end of the Parc.

The dish that we so fondly remember from Stephan Martin's is an Alsatian specialty:   jarret de porc.  It is a big pork roast taken from the upper part of the pig's back leg.  It is meant for two people, but we saw it served to a family of four at the restaurant.  That would probably be more appropriate.

It comes with a red cabbage that has been cooked in honey.  The meat is so tender it falls from the bone.   A divine sauce is brought to the table so you can add it as you go. 

This was heavenly enough, but then we remembered that this restaurant also serves our favorite dessert, moelleaux au chocolate.  Made with the richest, most expensive chocolate, this confection must be ordered in advance because it takes a while to prepare properly.  The outside looks a bit like chocolate cake, but the inside is warm soft chocolate.  Divine. 

Believe it or not, we still have not gained any weight. 

The restaurant was full.  We were the only English speakers there.  But of course we used our French to communicate.  This place is tucked into a non-touristy spot in the middle of our neighborhood.  It truly caters to locals, albeit fairly well-to-do locals.  During the six years we've been coming here, the 15th arrondisment has become noticeably more upscale.

Magnolia with a couple blooms in Parc Andre Citroen. Friday was an interesting day because we had to fix a plumbing leak in the apartment.  This leak had briefly haunted the winter/spring occupants of the apartment, but then it had mysteriously disappeared.  Friday, when Tom was cooking sausages for brunch, it miraculously re-appeared.  He turned off the water, and took the joint apart.  A bad washer was the cause.  Off he went to the hardware store ("bricolage") and back he came with the washer.  He put the joint back together and there was no more leak.  Rarely do plumbing repairs go this easily.  Life must be better all around here.

Just kidding -- actually, one thing is definitely worse here than where we live in Florida:  the air. Air pollution has been so bad that it has given me serious sinus problems and a sore throat for a few days, and Tom has trouble with irritated eyes when the pollution is bad.  Today, thankfully, the air is much better.

Air pollution is such a problem that it is routinely reported along with the weather, and there are bulletins about it on the local electronic billboards near some of the neighborhood metro stations.

Yesterday, we read a lot.  All day.  Mostly in French.  Then we finally went out for a walk before dinner.  It was cloudy, so I didn't take the camera.   I wish I had, because we encountered a big Jewish wedding on a boat on the Seine.   Lots of passers-by, like us, stopped on the bridge and road nearby to watch.   There were plenty of beautiful guests at that wedding.

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View from our apartment balcony this morning, July 7.  The air is clear and cool, about 65 degrees, and it will probably warm up to 80 or so today.

Dinner was at another favorite old neighborhood place, Della Piazza, right on the Place du Commerce.  They have the best veal.  I had Escalope du Chef, which includes thinly sliced apples and a terrific Normande sauce.  Tom had veal saltimbocca, which was also excellent.  There is never a need to make a reservation at this Italian restaurant.

When we were coming back from the Bois de Vincennes on Saturday, on the metro, something interesting happened at the stop at Invalides.  Lots of people were riding the metro who might otherwise be in their cars, because of the traffic stoppages caused by the Tour de France.  When the train stopped at Invalides, four people exited our car.   Two of them, a man and a woman, were in their 50s or early 60s and were very well dressed, professional-looking types.  They were not with each other.  We don't see that many people dressed this well on the metro.  Most people are very casual.   Another younger woman also disembarked.  And so did a fourth person, a man.   All four of them saw what I saw through the open train doors.

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Another view, looking the other direction, from the balcony.

A pathetic man who had been sitting on a seat at the station slid from his seat onto the floor.  He had not simply passed out because he had one arm up on the seat, straining to get up.  But he couldn't get up.  I was afraid he might be having a heart attack.  All four people who had exited our car went over to him and tried to help.   The younger woman looked like she knew what she was doing.  She got on her cell phone.  Our train stood still.  The driver saw what was happening in his rearview mirror, and was summoning the stationmaster.  The professional-looking woman went to the emergency phone nearby to do the same.  We all watched silently.   The professional-looking woman and one of the men left.  The young woman and the professional-looking man managed to lift the pathetic man by his armpits and put him back into his seat.  The professional man handed the pathetic man his satchel, and left.  The young woman stood nearby and waited for help to arrive.  Our train finally departed. 

I was touched by the genuine care that all these people showed for the pathetic drunk.

From Le Parisien:

July 4 - American tourists are now second in number to British tourists in Paris. Americans now make up 18.2 percent of the foreign visitors here, whereas they used to make up 21.4 percent.

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View from the rear, kitchen window.  There is a courtyard below.

The number of Americans checking into Parisian hotels has fallen by 24.5 percent for the months of January through April (compared to the same period in 2002) -- the strongest drop ever registered since the Office of Tourism has been keeping records. 

Le Parisien reports that this "disaffection" is all the more important because 45% of American tourists are of the "cadres," with good buying power.  The average budget for their expenses is 183 euros [per day??? not us!].  They take the majority of their meals in the brasseries.  [I notice this is true.  I need to tell you all right now, don't expect the best food or service in the brasseries.  Go to the restaurants instead.]  73% of American tourists eat in brasseries for lunch, and 89% for dinner.  [What a misguided bunch.  Brasseries are for morning coffee or afternoon drinks, that's all.  Maybe lunch once in a while, or breakfast.]   Americans tend to stay for six days in Paris; longer than tourists of other nationalities do.  Some 80% of the American tourists use the metro to get around.   [Good choice!]

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