Paris in the Springtime, 2001
by Rick Swallow
The Fourth Week
Blue, underlined text may be clicked on to see a larger version of the picture being discussed.
Wednesday 4 April [Vest Day]
Paresiens drive all kinds of vehicles, some not commonly seen in the US. For example there's a car named Smart that was dreamed up
by Swatch and produced by Marcedes. It's a 2-seater just over 6 feet long and ideal for city driving as it can be parked just about anywhere.
Some are multicolor painted and have interior colors that just scream. (Pictured Left, below) Then there's the Citrôen Deux Chaveux,
the two-cycle engine antique a surprising number of which are still around. (Pictured Right, below)
There are so many types and varieties of motor cycle and motor scooter as to defy
listing, but here are two which are similar in appearance which I thought interesting
because they remind me of 2-wheeled cars with a wrap-over windshield/top. The one
on the left is manufactured by BMW and the remarkably similarly styled one on the right
by Beneli, an Italian company.
The vehicle which made me most curious, however, is this Hummer which is
so wide that in some streets would have to drive on both the street and the
sidewalk at the same time. This behemoth can barely be maneuvered
through traffic jams like the typical city car. Besides, at over $4 per gallon of
gasoline here, it's hardly a practical vehicle what with its abysmal gas mileage.
Well, actually, I did see only one of them, and it had a parking ticket!
Seen in the picture to the left is an impressive, golden, Joan of Arc Statue located in the
Place des Pyramides at the Eastern end of the Louvre.
Three blocks further West and a couple of block North is the Place Vendôme, only one corner
of which is pictured. In the center of the square is a 145 foot tall bronze column erected in
honor of Napoléon I and cast from 1200 melted down cannon captured at Austerlitz.
(I say again, look it up if you are curious about French military battles. I'm not writing a history book here!) The column bears an
impressive spiralling series of bas reliefs. The buildings pictured actually are part of an octagonal complex built between 1687 and
1720 and dedicated to Louis XIV. At #12 is where Chopin died in 1849.
Brian Deyo, fellow staffmember at Vista Square (4th grade teacher), called from a train station at the German border. His connection has
been delayed because the French train workers union is on strike.
Thursday 5 April [Jacket Day]
Got my start this morning when Alfred called and asked if I wanted to see what the Drouot auction house was like. I jumped at the chance.
Drouot is a world-famous Auction-House on rue Druout, just northeast of the Opera, or a couple of streets northwest of the Bourse (the
French stock exchange) whichever is your point of reference. It has 16 rooms stacked with Antiques and what-nots which are auctioned
off, refilled, and auctioned off again, virtually on a daily basis. There are rooms for things from the Orient, for paintings, for drawings, for
silver, dishes, furniture, doors, etc., etc. Anyone can go in and look or bid. It's, well, really rather just too amazing. There's no way I can
describe what I saw in the space I want to allow here, so it'll be my memory, but if you've never been to a place like that, GO and get an
eyefull. Alfred did a running narration for me such as, "That's an 18th century blah blah," or "That's a such and such period piece," which,
of course, meant next to nothing to me except that I know it/they had value and were antique. I must say this, however: If you and I
stumbled across much of this stuff in an alley we'd think it had been set out for the GoodWill and we'd pass it by without a second glance.
Alfred, on the other hand, knowing their age and resale value on the antique market, restores such objects to near original form and
turns a tidy profit by buying, restoring, and reselling such...stuff. We had actually gone there because Alfred wanted a second look at a
clock he had seen the day before which had not yet been auctioned. Now, I looked at the clock at the same time he did and while he saw
"gold," I saw a broken old toaster which, if filled with free cement might, might have made a good boat anchor. He assured me that he
could restore it and that it was worth $1500 if it was worth a penny. I would really like to watch that process...gold out of straw, so to speak.
Frankly, I wouldn't have bid a penny! The auction itself was scheduled for later in the afternoon.
Alfred said he was going to his country house to check on a fax he was expecting, so, having nothing planned for the day, ( as it was
coldish and windy and looked like rain --which it did a bit, on and off). I tagged along. He lives, when not in town, in le Perreux, a suburb
just the other side of Vincennes. He, or rather now his ex-wife Jacqueline, has a rather nice French country home. She is raising some
turtles in the back yard, cute little things as turtles go, has a juvenile Yorky named Rocky as well as another nondescript little canine that
liked to play catch.
We returned shortly to Drouot where, to Alfred's disappointment, we missed by minutes the auctioning of the clock, though it had gone for
8000 francs (somewhat over $1000) which he stated he would not have paid anyway. Someone else apparently saw its value---no face,
no hands, no guts, just a shell of a clock. $1000. Go figure. I guess you just gotta be an antique-collector-type person to know what's up
Alfred went off to do other business and I went home for supper after a little shopping
and, of course, my walk to the Île. I discovered that Daylight Saving Time started a week
ago and I didn't even know it. No wonder everything has been closing "early". :-)
Brian Deyo showed up today at 11:30 explaining that he was only staying 2 days so we
began a whirlwind tour of the city so he could take photos. Deja vu. We did much of
what I would now all my "walking tour". We tried to get inside and atop the Arc de
Triomphe but it was closed due to a strike. At 9:30 p.m. I took one of Cityrama's night
bus tours of the city.
The "Living Statue" to the left is but one of many throughout the city in tourist areas.
Some of them never move at all and others will smile, bow, or otherwise gesture when
a donation is placed in their coin box/can/bowl/hat/jar.
On the left , above, is seen a Bateaux Mouche River Tour boat . It seats 1000 passengers. Though there are several companies that
provide river tours, Bateaux Mouche (I am told) was the first to do so. The right-hand photo, shot over the shoulder of a statue on the
Pont Alexandre III, shows 2 other river tour boats moving upriver.
Friday 6 April [Rain Gear/Jacket ]
Another day with Brian, dragging me kicking and screaming, racing about the city to take more photos. Mostly his. I'll post some more
that I took after he leaves. We took the 10:00 p.m. Bateaux Mouche night boat ride on the Seine. The Eiffel Tower is sure a beautiful
sight at night. Unfortunately it's "sparkler-like" flashing lights cannot be captured on a still camera. For 10 minutes at the top of the hour
starting at 9 P.M. the Tower turns into a giant sparkler. Otherwise it glows a pretty orange. It's one of those things where ya just gotta be
Saturday April 7 [Rain Gear/Jacket ]
Due to the French railway being yet on strike, Brian has opted to stay in the city until Tuesday at which time he has a reserved train to
London, unfortunately cutting out many of the areas in Western France and Amsterdam that he had planned to visit. And so more rapid-
paced photo shoots trying to squeeze even more into a short stay. It was a more relaxed day as we took a train to Versailles, which, of
course, was closed due to a strike. You see, the French, a short time back, demanded and got, a 35 hour work week. Now, it seems, they
are not content having to work 35 hours a week and want to make the official work week even shorter, as well as receiving a substaintial
increase in salary. Hmmmmm.
We decided to take a late night stroll along the Seine and returned around midnight after which we partook in an interesting conversation
regarding education and the philosophy of life in general. It was after 4 A.M. when we finally turned in.
Sunday April 8 [Sweater & Jacket ]
Brian and I visited the Pantheon in the crypt below which various dignitaries
both from the distant and not-so-distant past as well as other famous people
are entombed, including Pierre and Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Emile
Zola and Jean Jacques Rousseau.
Suspended from the central dome is a Faucault Pendulum such as Foucault
used here to illustrate the rotation of the earth.
The site has a religious history going back to 510 A.D. and King Clovis.
From the Pantheon we wandered back to la Jardin de Rodin as Brian wanted to purchase some posters in the gift shop there. Later, a
metro ride to the Basilica du Sacre Coeur where we did lunch and took some photos. The day was fairly pleasant with sun in the late
afternnoon so it was a good camera day.
The shot to the left (below) is St Pierre de Montmartre, an active church (once run by Benedictine nuns) since 1147 A.D. Immediately
adjacent to St Pierre, shown to right, below, is the Basilica Sacré Coeur at Montmartre, built in 1876 on a hill in the north of the city. One
of its bells weighs 19 tons making it one of the largest in the world. A long climb up to the top of the dome (for a small fee) will give you a
magificent 360o view of Paris and its northern suburbs.
Sacre Coeur can most easily be reached by taking metro line 4 toward Clignancourt and getting off at the Château Rouge stop. Much of
the long climb to the Basilica can be circumvented by taking the Funiculaire (cable car) located just out of view to the left of the right-hand
photo below which I took from the street at the bottom of the hill. Metro passes can be used!
Monday April 9 [Sweater & Jacket, Rain Gear]
Another Chula Vista teacher, Shelly Gagnon and her sister Kathy Putman called this morning to let me know that they had arrived in Paris
and they were kind enough to let me spend a little time with them. We met at the Jean D'Arc statue and I introduced them to the metro,
which we took to the Franklin D. Roosevelt stop on the Champs --my favorite Pizza Pino restaurant. Following that we made our way
to Sacre Coeur to the North, back to Notre Dame, and after a walk back to introduce them to the Louvre and a few little tips, we parted.
Brian had taken the day to meet with a dear friend from Mexico who now lives in Paris with her French husband. I was in-between people,
so to speak, and Shelly and Kathy's call made for a really nice day...tho I won't even pretend that it didn't rain on us some!
Tuesday April 10 [Sweater & Jacket, Rain Gear]
Brian left this morning for London. I saw him off at the Gare du Nord and
while there purchased my own ticket on Eurostar for my little side taste of
London April 4 to 9th. Before leaving the station I met a fellow Californian
who has been doing a rapid fire tour of Europe much as Brian is. Anthony
Gutierrez and his girlfriend have just rented a place at Las Playas--West of
Tijuana, Mexico, on the beach. Currently between jobs due to his relocation,
he is hoping to get a security job with a school district, an area of experience
which he has.
After a trip to the Cyber café I did a little grocery shopping and headed home.
The picture to the left is of men playing Boules, played, apparently, only by
men. There were three separate games going on there at the same time. It
seems to be a favorite leisure activity on any good day or for lunch-hour fun.
A small, marble sized ball is thrown--anywhere--and each person has three
heavy, metal balls which are thrown in an attempt to get closest to the small
ball. A cross between lawn bowling and marbles, it can be played just
about anywhere, is not limited by age or status, and that's the beauty of it.
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