Paris Journal 2005

Friday, July 15, 2005

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Fireworks, as seen from our kitchen window.











I’m not sure what President Chirac was thinking yesterday when he gave his annual Fête Nationale TV interview.  Just after spending a moment of silence in support of the British bombing victims, he spent much of this interview explaining in detail how the French are better than the British in almost every way.  That wasn’t very nice, was it?


The holiday fireworks were different this year.  Many of them were fired directly from the Eiffel Tower.  That meant that much more of the Champ de Mars had to be cordoned off.  With less room for people to spread out on the Champ, it must have been very crowded.


We went to Le Tipaza at about 9PM for dinner last night.  Mohammed greeted us with enthusiasm and we were given the very best table, in the front corner window.  It is almost like having your own private dining room facing the street.  From there, we watched the traffic grow into a real snarl as people tried to drive to see the fireworks. 


I think we usually eat at Le Tipaza on Quatorze Juillet.  For one thing, it is open.  For another, it is usually hot weather and Le Tipaza’s front is entirely open, so there is some air circulation.  If the weather really heats up, they even turn on their air conditioning.  But I think that happens only if the outdoor temperature goes above normal body temperature.  It isn’t quite that hot . . . yet.


Where was everyone, I wonder?  Usually Le Tipaza is crowded on Quatorze Juillet and on Sunday & Monday nights through July and August.  But there were only about 4 tables occupied while we were there.  It is a shame, because the food and service were excellent.  We both had Chateaubriand with roquefort sauce.  It is the best steak I have had in Europe.  It isn’t really a Chateaubriand cut, but something similar.


I sincerely do hope that people are not staying away from Le Tipaza and other North African restos in the aftermath of the London bombings. 


Le Tipaza is a feast for the eyes, too.  It has elaborate tile on the floors and partway up the walls and columns.  Above the tile is intricately molded plaster that forms Moorish arches between the columns.  The lighting is perfect.  The comfortable chairs are covered in a rich tapestry-like fabric with colors that blend with the tile.  Mohammed and his staff are dressed in crisply ironed white shirts and neat black trousers.


The place is – or has been – very popular.  Take a look at this review.  And another French reviewer says:  “Un restaurant berbère génial : la nourriture est fameuse et le décors est très très sympa. On sent que le patron a enormément travaillé à faire quelque chose de qualité.  Les prix sont hyper raisonnables. Je vous conseille un petit détour par ce resto. vraiment.”  (Translation:  A great North African restaurant:  the food is famous and the décor is very, very nice.  One senses that the boss has worked tremendously hard to make something of high quality.  The prices are extremely reasonable.  I advise you to take a detour for this resto.  Really.)


Le Tipaza, 150 av. Emile Zola, Telephone 01-45-79-22-25.


“Tipaza,” by the way, is a city on the Mediterranean coast in western Algeria.  Mohammed, however, is from Tunisia (at least that is where he goes for his annual vacation).


In the Paris news:


The famous pavement of  the Etoile, the enormous roundabout surrounding the Arc de Triomphe, is going to be re-done.  Each paving stone will be taken up, cleaned, and replaced.  This will involve 300,000 paving stones in the section of the roundabout between the avenues Foch and Iena, about 3,000 square meters.  This will take about a month and a half, starting now and ending at the end of August. 


Last year, the city did this operation in about 6000 square meters right around the Arc.  This is where the paving stones form a design that looks like a twelve-pointed star.  The newspaper says, “It is necessary to scrupulously respect the design with the paving stones of different colors.”


If you have ever driven through or been driven through this famous intersection, you won’t be surprised when I tell you that the paper says the Etoile handles 15,000 vehicles per hour.  Somehow, traffic is maintained while this work is being done.


The current operation is being done by 25 workers on site.  The stones will be power washed, and placed in a metal drum which is shaken to remove the old bits of blacktop from old joints.  The concrete surface beneath the stones will be restored while the stones for that section are being cleaned.  When the stones are clean as new, they are replaced. 


Prior to this and last year’s operation, the stones haven’t been renovated since 1947!  Next year’s project will involve 4,500 square meters, and the year after, another 2,500 square meters will be restored.  That will complete the new Etoile.


As beautiful as the paving stones are, they have their detractors.  Motorcyclists don’t like them, and some drivers think that the bumpy ride over the pavers is just too uncomfortable.  The detractors say that for the sake of “patrimoine” (historic preservation), keeping the Arc de Triomphe is enough. 


But the journalist Florence Cicolella points out that the detractors are not from Paris originally.  They come from places like Bordeaux.  The majority of real Parisians love the bumpy little pavers because of their charm and character from the time of the last World War.


Today is the last day to enter the Paris window flowers contest.  I wonder if I should nominate our balcony full of flowers?  The winners won’t be announced until the end of September.


Air pollution is bad.  The bad ozone level today in the 15th arrondissement, where we live, is 9 on a scale of 10 where 10 is the worst imaginable. 


If you want to play with finding aerial photos of your favorite parts of Paris, go to .  This is an experimental project by the City of Paris.


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