Monday
Jul032006

So civilized...

A scene from last week's open-air screening of Triplettes de Belleville in front of the Hôtel de Ville. They were worried it might rain, thus the black plastic bags ready to be pulled over the canvas chairs.

openaircinema.jpg 

Monday
Jul032006

Rue des Rosiers Construction

As part of the ongoing improvements to make the city look more like Disneyland*, the Rue des Rosiers has been completely torn up for re-cobbling. The west end towards the Rue Vieille du Temple (in the photo) is already done, although I think they still have to put the bars in that keep cars from parking. The whole area in front of l'As du Falafel is still dirt and planks.

rosiers.jpg

According to one of the shopkeepers on the street, they're going to make Rue des Rosiers pedestrian-only on Sundays. It's about time!

* Of course, we all know where Disney got the idea in the first place. They're really just trying to make the city look like it did before tarmac was invented. Minus the cholera and plague outbreaks. 

 

Monday
Jul032006

World Cup Madness



I've seen enough soccer (or football, as they say everywhere else in the world but the US), including every match in the last two World Cups, that I don't really feel the urge to sit through any more of them. It's not as if one needs to be watching in Paris anyway to know who's winning. Every time France scores a goal, the whole city seem to cheer. Cheers from every open window, every open café door, honking car horns and high fives in the metro.

It's way too hot again in Paris, about 33°C today. Saturday night I couldn't bear the idea of sitting in a bar full of sweaty bodies to watch. I went to see a cabaret production in a nice, dark, air-conditioned, sound-proofed theatre. Of course afterwards I had to take the metro home. It was packed full of fans on their way home, jubilant and pumped up after France beat Brazil. One of the tv monitors in the metro tunnels said that all bus service was cancelled for the night due to security issues. At the Place d'Italie there was already a huge crowd waiting at the bus stops. No one told them, of course. Wonder how everyone managed to get home, particularly those who depend on the night bus to get to the suburbs.

Beware of this if you go out Wednesday night (the  date of the next French match). There will be crowds everywhere, but particularly on the Champs-Elysées. The metros will be very crowded, and there may be no bus service. Taxis are usually hard to find. So is a bit of shut-eye. The horn honking continued well into the night, until at least 3am (video above recorded from my window two hours after the match was over).

Still, despite my cranky comments, it's nice to see the Parisians in such a good mood!  

If you want to watch the match on a big screen, there will be huge open-air screens at the Stade Charlety (99, boulevard Kellermann - RER Cité Universitaire, 13th) and Stade Jean Bouin (17, avenue Pierre de Coubertin - M° Porte de Saint-Cloud, 16th). Free, open from one hour before the matches start.

Tuesday 4 July
9pm: Italy - Germany

Wednesday 5 July
9pm : Portugal-France 

Saturday 8 July
9pm : match for 3rd place

Sunday 9 July
9pm : Final

Thursday
Jun292006

Pampering Deal of the Summer!

So I was wandering around the super-annoying website of the Royal Monceau (a 1920s palace hotel near the Arc de Triomphe), losing patience with the slow-as-molasses flash-only navigation, when I stumbled upon some interesting news.

The hotel's recently renovated Les Thermes Spa (now with Kanebo spa products) has a special summer deal for July and August: €300/month for unlimited access to the spa's indoor pool (windows overlook the gardens), sauna, Jacuzzi, hammam, fitness room, and classes (eight per day are scheduled) such as stretching, aquagym, Abdo-fessiers (tums and bums), and yoga. It's open from 7am until 10pm, and there's even a pool-side café that serves healthy foods such as salads, chopped veggie platters, and grilled fish. Spa treatments are extra, but you're not obligated to sign up for them (might be hard to resist, considering how inexpensive this is).

Now I know some of you are saying, "Three hundred euros is a lot!" But most scruffier gyms in Paris charge more than that, without the exquisitely elegant setting you'll find at the Royal Monceau. The new floating swimming pool on the Seine (set to open next month) will be €5 for the first two hours and €5/hour for each hour after that. So an afternoon of three hours at the pool will cost €10. Go every day for a month and that's €300. No-brainer, if you ask me. Just go have a look at the photos on their site or stop by and have a peek. I'll be in the pool, dahlings!

Wednesday
Jun282006

French Village Reenacts German-American Battle

There was a small detour on the Sunday Canadian Club hike to take in La Fête de la Jeep in the village of Sagy. It's an annual reenactment of the August 1944 battle between US liberation troops (led by Captain Murray Pulver) and the Nazi Germany occupiers (led by Lieutenant Heinz Bliss). 

 2sagy1.jpg
Here's one photo of the reenactment. I was too short to get a good one. This is from behind the Americans.
 
It was an elaborate show, with fireworks, live music (even a bit of Wagner's "Flight of the Valkyries"), and authentic uniforms and vehicles. It was, I admit, a tad weird to hear the "German" and "American" troops speaking French afterwards (they're all French, of course).
 
2sagy2.jpg 
The group organizing the reenactment is called Union Jeep-Vexin, and they collect all sorts of American military vehicles.
 
Around the field where the show took place were little military encampment scenes, and recruiting tables for the French Army (they had a slick and shiny motorcoach) and the French Foreign Legion (they had wine).
 
2sagy3.jpg
This is a Vietnam-era encampment.
 
Oh, and I should mention that the Americans did win this battle, managing to shoot Lieutenant Bliss as he attempted a dramatic retreat in a motorcycle sidecar. It was just one of the many small battles that took place throughout the country during the liberation of France.
Tuesday
Jun272006

Hiking in Ile-de-France

Last Sunday I went on one of the Canadian Club hikes, a day-long trek from Chars to Meulun (23.6k). Two things should be known: always get to the train station EARLY to have time to buy a ticket at the window in case the automated machine is out of order (or doesn't take your credit card); and never try hiking with the Canadian Club in anything other than real hiking boots (your feet will regret it, otherwise).

22hike1.jpg
Here we are checking out the old church in Chars at the start of the hike.

22hike2.jpg
Brian shows us the route on a topography map. We're heading for the Chaussée Jules César, an old vestige of a Roman road into Paris. He advises the "slow" people in the back to keep a map on them just in case. Then he takes off at lightning speed, leaving us all in the dust.

22hike3.jpg
The hike starts off casually enough under the shade of the forest trees. We even think we have time to stop and smell the roses!

22hike5.jpg
But as the sun gets higher in the sky, we leave our lovely forested trail and follow Brian into a endlessly stretching fields of wheat with no trees in sight. Bordered by stinging nettles (note: long pants not a bad idea on these hikes).

2hike4.jpg
We find a patch of trees with enough shade to eat our lunch. Apparently, this is the Roman bit here.

22hike4.jpg
Here are my sidekicks for the day, Lena & Pedro (wishing they'd left the black fur coats at home).

22hike7.jpg
The post-lunch half of the walk is also tree-free. But notice those clouds are getting poofy (that's a French meteorological term).

22hike8.jpg
Here's one of the cute villages we pass through. The horse is just a lawn ornament for the tourists.

2hike1.jpg
We stop in front of a private château for a group photo. A few minutes later we enter the town of Villette, and Brian thinks it might be fun to hop over an old stone wall to see another château, designated on his map. Luckily for all involved, I actually recognized the name, Château de Villette (aka Teabing's mansion in the Da Vinci Code), and thought it might be more heavily guarded than your average country home. As we rounded the front to peer through the gate, indeed there was some sort of large pair of jaws with four legs frolicking on the grounds with some teenagers. They wouldn't let us in for iced tea (with nor without lemon).

22hike9.jpg
After a day of sweltering heat, it begins to bucket down raining fifteen minutes before we arrive at the train station. We all get soaked. Here Pedro & Lena, completely pooped out, dry themselves in the sun while waiting for the ride home. They wouldn't look at me for two days afterwards. ;)

 PS Thanks Philippe for the extra photos!