Excuse me, waiter, there's sweat in my soup

Author's note: Actual helpful info at the end of this rant.

Yeah, it's hot in Paris. Very hot. And before you try and tell me that it's hot in Houston, too, remember that it's hot everywhere in Paris, not just outside. It's hot in the métro. It's hot in the Eiffel Tower elevator. It's hot at Versailles. It's hot in my seventh-floor, apartment. I would check to see if I could fry an egg on the tin windowsill (I'm right under the roof) if I was sure the yolk wouldn't slide down onto my neighbor's balcony below. It's also hot in practically every single restaurant. Even the ones that advertise climatisation.

A true story:

On Friday I had a group visiting from the US. We had reservations at their favorite Italian restaurant in the Marais, Café Baci. The night before they had suffered through dinner at the un-air-conditioned Willie's Wine Bar, so just in case I decided to check the Café Baci in advance. In person. I stopped by at lunch and the air was warm, all of the windows and doors opened onto the sidewalk. "No air?" I ask. "Only upstairs," they replied. Perfect, that's where they want to sit.

So I arrive before the rest of the group that night, and am greeted with the worst phrase one could possibly hear in these situations: "Il y'a un problème." Apparently the A/C upstairs broke. "But we have it downstairs in the back. I go to check, and it does indeed feel cooler. But as I sit at the bar with my apéro, waiting for my friends, the manager arrives and starts opening the large window-doors overlooking the sidewalk. I ask the waitress, "Won't it stay cooler if you keep the windows closed?" She agrees, but says the management wants them to stay open.

I'm not even going to get into the French obsession with "terrace" (sidewalk) seating and their aversion to A/C. According to one friend, they don't even like air from a fan, thinking all drafts are unhealthy drafts. I'm not going to say a thing. I wait a moment, then casually walk over to the back room once more. It's exactly the same temperature as outside now. I can't feel even the faintest wisp of cool air coming from the vents. My friends arrive.

"We have a problem." They all go upstairs, which is ten times hotter, then order drinks at the bar while I call the closest restaurant in Paris that advertises A/C. The directory assistance number I call can't seem to find the number for Bofinger, one of the city's historic brasseries. They finally give me a number and I call.

"Do you have A/C?"


"Does it work?"


"Do you have place for eight in fifteen minutes?"


I announce the short walk. They're good troopers (they think they're getting A/C). We arrive, now good and sweaty in our nice clothes, at Bofinger. The maitre'd doesn't have my reservation, says he didn't get my call, and that he doesn't have any room for us. "What number did you call?" I look at the texto that directory assistance sent and show it to him. "ah, that's Petit Bofinger, across the street."

I herd my herd back outside and across the street, where a big sign proudly announces an air-conditioned non-smoking section. It's in the back. It's about one degree cooler than the rest of Paris. We all pile into our seats, defeated, sweaty, exhausted by the heat. We fan ourselves with the menu, hoping it will feel cooler once we settle down.

It didn't. They still had the windows open in the front room (for the smokers, I'm guessing), and since there's no door separating the front from the back...well, I'm not going to explain how circulation works, but I remember what my mother said if I held the front door open too long. "What are you trying to do? Refrigerate the whole city?" 

As promised, here's some genuinely useful info: 

- L'As du Falafel, 4th: There are two rooms in this Jewish falafel stand, one that's air-conditioned, and one that has eight high-powered fans attached to the walls. Bonus: open Sunday.

- Ladurée Tea Room and Pastry Shop, Champs Elysées, 8th: It's not high-powered air, but it's cool enough to keep the pastries from melting, I wasn't uncomfortable at all. A bit pricey, yes, but you can't beat those macarons!  Bonus: open daily until 1am.

- La Chope, Place de la Contrescarpe, 5th: Not only is the terrace of this café equipped with water misters, there are also rotating ceiling fans made up of mini fans (see photo). This must be a first. Not A/C'd, but A+ for effort!


-  McDo at Place d'Italie, 13th: It has free WiFi and air conditioning so cold I actually had goose bumps after a half hour. And no one working there seemed to care that I stayed at my corner downstairs with my laptop for four hours on one hot afternoon, trying to finish an article that was already past due. Did I mention it's within eye-sight of my apartment (aka, The Oven)? There are other McDo's, but I haven't tried any of them.

- Pozzetto, 39 rue Roi de Sicile, 4th: Not A/C'd at all, but according to the expert David Lebovitz, this is where you'll find the best gelato in Paris, open until midnight,  à consommer sans moderation!


Read David's blog for hot weather survival tactics in Pars.




Breaking News!!

I didn't really have plans to watch the World Cup final. The idea of being trampled by exuberant crowds sort of put me off the idea. But yesterday afternoon a French friend invited me to watch the match with a bunch of friends, which sounded so darned civilized I agreed to meet him there at 7:30pm.

Remembering the cancellation of bus service and the electricity cuts in the Metro (people kept falling onto the tracks in their "party" state), I thought it might be a good night to dust off the bike. I rarely ride it in the city, it's more of a country bike (a cross between a mountain bike and a street bike). But even though those comfy Dutch-style cruisers are more lady-like (and only €175 at Go Sport), I have an emotional attachment to my vélo (I rode it from Minneapolis to Chicago when I graduated from college), so I won't be switching anytime soon.

I'm the one with the helmet on. And sometimes even cycling gloves (I hate calluses) if it's not too hot. I have a side mirror so I can see how close the busses are to squashing me. I didn't get on the road until 7:30pm, and the streets were already practically empty, everyone piled into cafés and bars and restaurants to see the match. The few vehicles on the road were honking, many with passengers brandishing huge flags -- French or Italian -- from the window. I arrived at the apartment two seconds before the French captain Zinedine Zidane scored the team's only goal. 

The rest of the match, as you all know, was very exciting, a real nail-biter. During the pauses we all (mostly French, plus me and a guy who was half-American and half-Spanish) went out onto the balcony overlooking the street. A suspiciously huge French flag hung from the balustrade ("Which library did you steal this from?"). We all agreed that even if France didn't win, they were playing a good game.

Then what happened? Who knows. Rampant speculation. Zidane, in the final minutes of overtime, lost his cool with one of the Italian players and head-butted him in the solar plexus. Ouchie. It was actually kinda funny, like he was one of those characters from He-Man (Ram-Man...I had to look that up). Not so funny a few seconds later when the red card came out and he retired (literally), head down, to the lockers. Such a sad ending for one of the legends of the World Cup, everyone said (because no matter why he did it -- rumors of racial slur, of being hit in his injured shoulder, etc. -- losing one's cool is never cool).


Okay, I just looked at the FIFA Official World Cup site, and Zidane has been voted Best Player for the 2006 World Cup!! Hooray Zizou! That's a much more fitting end to the career of such a great player and (aside from the obvious glitch) role model for Franco-Arab kids -- hell, ALL kids!

Post note: In a typical linguistical faux pas of hilarious proportions, I referred to Zidane as "Zizi". As my French friend kindly pointed out, that means something else. ;)




It's a Dirty Job...You Want It?

The ultra-hip, super-offensive and totally funny magazine Vice is looking for an upstart go-getter to run their France market. Think you can sell €50,000 ads one day and write about dog shit the next? Then maybe this job is for you. Check out the details here (and remember me later when you're bathing in Dom Perignon).


Herbes du Luxembourg

Looking for medicinal herbs, teas, Dr. Bach's essences, Sainte-Hildegarde products, dietary supplements or essential oils? There's a pretty boutique facing the Jardin du Luxembourg that specializes in all of these things, with personalized advice if you're not sure what you need.

Les Herbes du Luxembourg

"Herboristerie Traditionnelle"
3 Rue Médicis, 6th
Tel 01 43 26 91 53
M° Odéon or RER Luxembourg

Open Mon & Sat 11am-7pm, Tues-Fri 10:30am-7pm. 


Coupe du Monde 2006

bleues.jpgTonight France plays Italy for the Football (aka Soccer) World Cup. To say the town has "Les Bleues" Fever would be an understatement. And there are so many Italians in Paris that no matter who wins you can expect a lot of joyously noisy celebratiing tonight!

The match will be on everywhere, probably in places you least expect it. But for sure you can see it on a giant, open-air screen at:  

-  Stade Charlety (99, boulevard Kellermann - RER Cité Universitaire, 13th)

- Stade Jean Bouin (17, avenue Pierre de Coubertin - M° Porte de Saint-Cloud, 16th)

- Parc des Princes (Access by the tribune Paris - M° Porte de Saint-Cloud, 16th)

Entrance is free, open from 7pm (match starts at 8pm).


A Message from Jimmy Carter for Americans Living Abroad

On November 7, Americans throughout our land will vote in mid-term elections for the House and Senate. I am speaking to you today, as the Honorary Chairman of Democrats Abroad, to urge you to join them - wherever you may be in the world..

Click to read more ...