Thursday, August 18, 2005
typically parked on the rue d’Estrées, by the Ministry of Health in the 7th
An Ile de
France governmental building on rue Babylone with an Ingrid Betancourt
Cute things in a
shop window at the corner of rue de l’Université and the avenue de la
Bourdonnais in the 7th.
friend Jill asked, in an e-mail, if the Parisians were treating us well.
treating us so well. In restaurants
where we are known, we are treated like royalty. In restaurants where we are unknown, the
servers are a bit anxious and restrained at first, when they hear our
American accents. But as soon as we
place our order, in French, they are relaxed and friendly. When we return to the restaurant, they seem
to be quite happy to see us. We feel
very welcome here.
But there is
nothing like the royal treatment the police gave us yesterday.
It was one of
those evenings when we knew exactly where we wanted to walk. Up avenue de la Motte Picquet, across the
Esplanade des Invalides in front of the row of cannons, right on the
boulevard des Invalides, and left on the rue de Varenne which would
eventually put us in the vicinity of the Place Saint Sulpice in the 6th arrondissement The rue de Varenne is home to the Musée Rodin, the Ministry of Agriculture and
Fishing, and the Hôtel
Matignon, in that order, from west to east. The Hôtel Matignon is where the Prime
Minister, Dominique de Villepin, lives and works (not a hotel in the American
sense of the word).
When we went
down the boulevard des Invalides, we immediately noticed that a demonstration
was going on right at the corner of the rue de Varenne. At first we thought the throng of about 100
people were completely blocking our way.
We stood across the street and watched.
demonstration was by the French communist party, a pathetic little
group. And they did seem pathetic
because if you can only gather 100 people for a demonstration in the capital
city of a major European country, you might as well give up. Anyone who hasn’t figured out yet that
communism doesn’t work isn’t living in this century.
Anyway, we saw
that pedestrians were being allowed to make their way through from the rue de
Varenne towards us on the boulevard des Invalides. So we reasoned that we should be able to go
the opposite way through the throng.
first. Just as I rounded the corner
and was about to leave the throng, two
policemen stopped me and said something I could not hear because of the noise
that the demonstrators were making. I
did hear the words “ou” (where) and “madame.”
Thinking quickly, I simply made a very female hand gesture toward
myself, opened my eyes wide, and said “Je suis une Americaine.” Immediately, both policemen waved me on
through, as if I were the Queen of England.
I think they may have even bowed slightly.
I went on, and
about 10 feet later I turned and asked Tom what they asked him. He didn’t know, but he mumbled “Musée
Rodin,” and that was sufficient for the police to allow him to pass.
obviously trying to keep the demonstrators away from the Hôtel Matignon
(where the Prime Minister, having returned from a brief vacation, was back at
work, in suit and tie) and some related building across the street from it,
where somebody important was just leaving.
My answer was very sufficient because the French police know that
there are almost no communists left in
Almost no cars
were being allowed onto the rue de Varenne.
I guess the soldiers and gendarmes were only allowing cars that had
some business or purpose on that street.
So we had the street practically to ourselves, except for the
occasional pedestrian or the rare car, and all the guards and police (must
have been about 20 of them scattered along the way).
fun. We took the time to read all the
French historical markers on the rue de Varenne. I read them out loud to Tom, in American,
so any nearby guards would realize we were harmless American tourists. Not communists at all.
I didn’t take
the time or make the effort to understand what the chief communist
demonstrator was speaking into his bullhorn.
I really wasn’t interested. But
today’s Le Parisien says that the
members of the communist party have put together a sale of fruits at
vegetables at cost at the Place de la Bastille for just one day, today. They organized a bunch of farmers from
Seine-et-Marne and Tarn-et-Garonne to load up their produce and haul it into
the city where they could sell directly to customers. They did this on the 31st of
August last year, as well. Their goal
is to show how the capitalists who run the distributers and the grocery
stores are gouging everyone. (Here is
the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing’s response
to this issue - a PDF file.)
communists might have been kicking off the fruit and vegetable day with a demonstration
the evening before, near the Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing on the rue
de Varenne. However, the police were
not going to allow them onto the rue de Varenne because of the proximity to
the Hôtel Matignon, and probably also because they didn’t want the
demonstrators to block the entrance to the Musée Rodin.
I always feel
safe walking through the 7th because of all the security there,
but yesterday evening was exceptional.
Coming home, we walked down the rue de Babylone, which runs behind the
Hôtel Matignon, and we encountered no demonstrations.
evening’s experience reminds me of a true story my friend Joyce once told
me. She and her husband, Art, were
living and working in
is not a bad thing here. It can be a
very good thing. It all depends on
We walked to
Place Saint Sulpice, sat down and looked at the magnificent lions on the
fountain there, and decided to eat at Le
Seraphin, around the corner at 5 rue Mabillon (Telephone
01-56-24-41-00). The food was
excellent, as always. I noticed a
brochure that indicated that Le Seraphin is one of four restaurants owned by
the same people in that area. After
dinner, we decided to walk down the little rue Guisarde to check out two of
the others, La Boussole and La Bastide d’Opio.
surprised to see many nice little restaurants on rue Guisarde and rue des
Canettes. They were all almost full of
people eating, and these people did not look like tourists. This is something to remember, in August,
when so many restaurants are closed.
All of these restaurants looked good; and they looked much better than
the junky tourist traps one finds in the
rue des Canettes and rue Guisarde in the 6th arrondissement,
between rue de Four and rue Mabillon.