Paris Journal 2004

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Sign my guestbook. View my guestbook.

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Flowers on our balcony.

Flowers on our balcony.

Iron heron.

Decorative iron heron in front of French door. The shutters you see are often used to keep heat out, or to keep out drafty cold air in winter. They are also useful for security purposes.

Funny dog

Every year, we see less and less dog shit on the sidewalks. The newer, stiffer fines for not cleaning up after one's dog are now being enforced strictly. Last year and the year before, it was more common for people to get verbal warnings. Now, offenders are being fined, and recidivists are being fined heavily.

Eiffel Tower on a good air day.

Eiffel Tower on a good air day. Today, however, air pollution is up, as are the temperatures.

Brice Lalonde

Brice Lalonde, John Kerry's cousin, a pro-environment politician in France who started Generation Ecologie. This picture is from Generation Ecologie's web site.

I mentioned that I went to FNAC to buy a router for the computers yesterday. Now I must tell you about the packaging. First of all, router is made by Netgear, a California company. The router they sell in France comes in a box that has three languages on it: French, Spanish, and Dutch. That's fine. I read the box carefully to be sure it was what we needed and that it would work with our computers and cable connection.

When I installed it last night, I noted that the installation instruction pamphlet was also in French, Spanish, and Dutch. Good, I thought. This company knows how to do business here. The last step in the process involved going to a Netgear website and typing in a username and password, then following some simple instructions so that their website could set all the appropriate settings in the router for the customer's own type of internet connection. That's a great idea. But the bad part is, all the instructions and every word on this web site were in English only! Now that must be infuriating for a European computer user who doesn't know English.

By the way, before we left, I contacted the other company that makes routers, Linksys, because I have an extra one that I planned to bring here but I needed a European power cord. (Using a voltage converter on something that stays on all the time is a very bad idea, and besides, the converter would probably interfere with the connection by creating "noise.") I couldn't find the power cord on any web site, so I called Linksys and persevered through their phone system until I got a real person. They don't make any European power cords for their routers because they don't sell them in Europe! This explains why Netgear was the only brand of router for sale at FNAC, and it explains why I paid nearly twice as much for it as I've paid for routers in the U.S.

There's more in the news today about the decline in tourism in France. The numbers for July are in, and as I expected, they are some of the worst in a long time. Today's articles focused on French tourists, who typically take their vacations in France because, among other reasons, they want to avoid other languages (this is according to the French newspapers, not me). Even the French are saying that it is too expensive to vacation in France. And the Germans are tending now to go to places like Croatia, where vacations are much less expensive.

Interestingly, some of the French no longer like to vacation in places like the Cote d'Azur because, they say, the service is bad and unfriendly. One man said he prefers now to go to Barcelona, because there he is received with smiles and warmth.

I've not found the French to be unfriendly. Madame at Le Blavet, one of our newer, favorite restaurants (on rue de Lourmel) is a case to discuss, however. We can't exactly call her friendly, although she did say hello to us when we passed her on the street on market day. She is extraordinarily businesslike and curt when she's at the restaurant. And she is obsessive about how she will take your orders. Everyone at the table must first say what they want for the first course, then everyone must say what they want for the second course, and then everyone must order dessert at the beginning of the meal. The food is delicious. The price is a bargain: 18 euros for three courses.

Much of the menu is written by hand on a blackboard that hangs on the wall. When we went there with Alan, Deb and Wendy, we had that dining room almost to ourselves. Since the writing was small and hard to read across the room, Alan just brought the blackboard over to our table, then put it back after we all decided. The next time, when Tom and I went there alone, I had the misfortune of being seated immediately in front of the blackboard, so my head was blocking the listing of desserts. When a couple across the room was having difficulty reading the board, I took it off the wall and carried it over to them. They were grateful.

When Madame came to take their order, she scolded them about the blackboard. They explained that I'd brought it to them. Then she gave me a devastating look. I looked as innocent as possible and shrugged my shoulders. The woman at the other table then told Madame that it was impossible for them to see the board otherwise, and fortunately, Madame gave up and said ok.

I'm sure that her obsession with control is one of the things that makes this restaurant so good, but some people could interpret her curtness as unfriendliness. I have to admit that I much prefer the way we are treated at Oh! Duo, but Oh! Duo is now much more expensive. Same with Le Tire Bouchon.

Oh, we had a delightful dinner the other night at Banani, an Indian restaurant on rue de la Croix Nivert, with Alan, Deb, and Leo. They're now visiting home in California for August. It was a great pleasure to see them the night before they left. And the food was good, too. Tom loves the onion beignets that are served as an appetizer at Banani. Our waiter was a John Kerry fan. We talked about John and his French ties, which the waiter was unaware of, even though John's Aunt Fiona lives in Paris and is the mother of Brice Lalonde. Who is Brice Lalonde? The newspapers mention his name as if we are all supposed to know who he is.

I think he was a Minister of Ecology or something. Let's see. I just now Googled him and found that twenty years ago he was a presidential candidate. He is a former minister of the environment. He considers himself to be one of the chief pro-environment politicians. He says that the Green Party members, who have "occupied this space" for the past few years, have been disappointing. He's a liberal, and calls himself "very globalist." In 1990, he created Generation Ecologie. This appears to be something of a Political Action Committee, and its members call themselves "the blues," as opposed to the "greens," I suppose.

If Brice's cousin becomes the U.S. president, and if Generation Ecologie can make some political headway in Europe, maybe planet Earth will be saved after all.

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