Sunset at 9:45 pm, Saturday, June 19, 2010
Greetings, Readers, and welcome, July. Wow. June flew. With its flight, warmth finally has reached the City of Light. We might as well call it the City of Heat at this point, for summer is definitely here! Can you believe the sky up there in that photo? One of the things that blows my mind about Paris is that we are so far north in latitude, sunset around the solstice does not happen until 10 pm (that’s 22.00 in French Time).
What with all the warm weather and late sunsets, the past couple of weeks have been full of pique-niques and musique. And some interesting happenings on the plaza in front of our apartment.
I’m, franchement, too lazy to go back to find the post now (you can dig in the archives if you like), but back last November when I decided to do the NaNoWriMo competition bloggy-style instead of writing something novel-tastic, I know that I wrote about how I don’t go out so often and so the Paris I often present to readers is the one out of my dining area window.
I’m a bit obsessed with the view out the window, really.
Back when I was a smoker (nine months cig-free, go me! Umm, except for the 10-day lapse in April and the odd cigarette here and there — totally cigarette free for the past six weeks or so, though, and honestly, NO desire to pick it back up *at all* right now), I used to hang out of the window and blow the smoke out of the apartment. I’d watch life happening from my second floor perch (that’s the second floor past ground level, which is how they do things here. So really it’s the third floor to those who consider ground level to be the first floor. Confusing, I know. Welcome to my world).
Out-the-window-watching is a hobby now — a way of interacting with Paris by observing her. I know it is kind of fudging to claim actually participating with life in Paris just watching her go by, but I claim the Observer Effect, which states that simply observing an event or phenomenon effects changes on the event or phenomenon. I don’t want to get all Quantum Physics up in your stuff, but it is the idea that my watching and reporting on the happenings in my little plaza in front of my house makes me, and then you (by your reading this), a part of the larger phenomenon of “Paris.” Quantum-ly, we all have an effect on Paris by our mere watching and thinking about her.
Sorry if I exploded your head there. Out-the-window-watching is kind-of a lame way of blogging about Paris, granted, but then if you want to see all the typical stuff, there are 40 gagillion other cool blogs and websites that do so (check out my links page for some of the coolest ones). In fact, a brand-spanking new one can be found right here. Not to say that this blog is “typical.” It is unique. It’s purpose is to show both typical and atypical people, places, and things in the city as the writer observes and interacts with her.
Guess what? It’s Paul’s blog — my Paul. He has started, after 20 years of living here, a Paris Blog. Paris Inspired: the City of Light as a Muse. This is by no means Paul’s first venture in blogging; in fact, he has had a long online presence in various venues. It’s not even his first venture writing about the city. He was one of the first online authors under a pseudonym to write about Paris in 1999 and 2000! Yes kids, he is a grandpa when it comes to online travel writing about Paris. I’m keeping his privacy about his author’s name and articles from that time as he’s also written fiction which would make your mother blush under that same name, and he’s trying to separate Paul the longtime fiction writer from Paul the travel and city of Paris writer. Paul has some other writing projects in the works where he is writing under his real name, and it would be to his benefit to keep personas separate in the worlds of fiction versus non-fiction at this point. If only he would have thought of this over ten years ago, but eh. We do what we do, and Paul just had one pen name back then which he used for everything written. So it goes. He is now Paris Paul, as I am Paris Karin. Nice that he gets the initial consonant alliteration, no? Sure, I get the mid-word assonance, which works all right, but makes an ASSonance out of me.
Heh. Going for the cheap pun. Low, huh. Guess it is time to move on to the Fête de la Musique.
Fête de la Musique
I’ve read some fun blogs about the events of June 21 and people’s experiences of the noise, I mean, music. I just ran into this one, courtesy of my subscription to the blog A Taste of Garlic, which featured blogger Ed Ward at City on a Hill. His top post the day I read his blog is entitled More Miettes and has a very good explanation about what the Fête de la Musique is really like:
This sounds curmudgeonly of me, I know. Here’s a day set aside for free music, played everywhere around every town! What a beautiful, idealistic event! But the reality is different. For one thing, you almost never see professionals participating in this thing. For some of the groups and individuals who play, it’s the only gig — or almost the only gig — they’ll have all year. For another thing, the spirit of the thing is vitiated by the fact that a large percentage of the “musicians” are DJs. You’re not going to rope me into the “DJs aren’t musicians” debate, for the simple reason that I’ve done lots of DJ work and I know how hard it is to cobble together a set in a club or on the radio, but I will also grant you that it’s easy enough to assemble a sound system that’ll blast your average fiddle band into oblivion with the touch of a switch. Quite frankly, I think that what my late friend Rollo called “guitar operators” and such should be the focus of the Fête, and not record selectors.
I nodded a lot when I read this, and the rest of the post (which is great fun to read, too) because this is just what we have had in our plaza for the three years I have been present for the Fête.
Every Fête there are these cats in the ‘hood who set up this sound system and then either pipe music over the sound system and/or perform (term used loosely) improvisational rap. It’s fun for about five minutes, especially earlier in the day when the little kids are having fun dancing and singing and looking cute. But at about half-past midnight when the rappers have imbibed beverages that have them hopping and they are still going strong (and inebriated), it is basically a pain in the ears (which you will note is arse if you mess with the order of the letters a bit). By this time, their creativity has lapsed as well. At one point, the boyz in the ‘hood kept rapping about the “dix-neuvième,” the “19th,” which is the number of our arrondissement. It went like this:
dix-neuvième dix-neuvième dix-neuvième dix-neuvième dix-neuvième dix-neuvième dix-neuvième
Yeah. Not cool. Since the Fête fell on a Monday, though, they quieted down relatively early (maybe by 1 am?) instead of the 2 or 3 am in previous summers when the Fête fell on a weekend.
One of these years maybe I will venture out of my apartment to go and listen to some of the performances that happened about town, which I read were more professional than this one.
Speaking of music, Paul and I went to see a park named after Serge Gainsbourg, France’s patron saint of musical controversy.
Jardin Serge Gainsbourg
Paul’s first blog is about our journey to this brand new park in the eastern part of the 19th — it is located right at the intersection of Place du Maquis du Vercors / Avenue de la Porte des Lilas. It’s just around the corner from Métro Porte des Lilas and right at the bus stops for the bus lines that end there (buses 48 and 96).
Paul did such a nice job of reporting about the park, I am going to refer you there for more information, but thought I would share my photos here.
This one is a collage of photos of a well/aquaduct thingy (I do not know what the English name of this is, but in French it is the Regard des Maussins) just near the Métro Porte des Lilas. Oh cool — Paris Promenades has a long article that explains what this is in Water for a Capital. Here’s part of the explanation:
Third-century aqueducts collected source water from aboveground basins and troughs that led to a ‘collector’ basin. A later and more efficient system, it is unsure from when, collected water in underground conduits of un-mortared stone called “pierrées” and directed it to a collector “regard.” This building served as an accumulator for all pierrées in the area, and held a basin that redirected the collected source water into an aqueduct.
So there you go. It’s an ancient water collection basin. It was interesting-looking. Here’s a link to the Google Maps view, as I had trouble photographing the entire structure because the Porte des Lilas area is under construction for a tramway extension.
Here are a collection of photos of the park. You can see all of them at my set on Flickr: Jardin Serge Gainsbourg.
Paul and I decided to take the bus back from Porte des Lilas because usually bus 48 stops right in front of out place at this stop here:
See the stop across the street there, just to the right of the car? Bus 48 stops there.
But not on the afternoon of Saturday, June 26! Because there was a…
FIRE IN THE ‘HOOD
We walked up to our street, after our bus made an inexplicable detour and unusual stop on Avenue Jean Jaurès. Coming up to the street, it was taped off with several ambulances and fire trucks lining the streets around the plaza. A building across the way from us was on fire! Smoke was coming out windows as we arrived, but the fire was already under control by the time we arrived back home. Still, there were another couple of hours of window watching and photo ops as the pompiers worked at ensuring the fire was out and the building was safe. I think I took about 140 photos of the excitement. They are posted in this set on Flickr.
Some of the more interesting things I saw were these chicks on Segway-type scooter things. Don’t know what they were doing, but two pompiers were chatting them up for a while. Cute girls, handsome firefighters = certain flirtation, even with a fire crisis at hand. Hey, they’re French! 😉
We have a lot of Orthodox Jews living in our area. Three young Jewish men stopped to watch on the way back home from the synagogue near us.
I thought this family walking back home from synagogue was cute, too. I love how everyone was dressed in his and her Saturday/Shabbat best.
After a couple of hours, our plaza, which had been full of all kinds of people watching the action not to mention dozens of handsome pompiers, was once again a peaceful place.
Check out the photo set for a lot more views of “real people” in Paris. Like these guys:
Sunday, June 26 – A Picnic with Family and Friends
On Sunday, Paul and his son and I had plans to meet Amber, whom I have blogged about before, in the Buttes Chaumont Park for a picnic with her parents, who are in town for a visit. I asked my new friends, Matthieu and Joanna, if they would like to join us, and so they made the long trek from the ‘burbs of eastern Paris to Métro Jaurès. Métro Jaurès near Line 5 is just where the Saint Martin Canal turns into the Canal l’Ourcq at the Bassin de la Villette.
I snapped a few photos while I waited for Joanna and Matthieu to arrive.
We had a nice time in the park getting to know Amber’s parents and discussing their adventures in Paris so far. It was a great opportunity for Joanna and Matthieu to brush up on their English. They hope to perhaps move to the States soon as Matthieu may have a job opportunity there, so it was some intensive practice for them. Joanna is dear to me as she is a Chinese expat in France, and her hometown in China is not far from the area where I lived and worked back in 1990-1991.
Here are a few photos from all that I took in the park that day. Paul’s son is in the upper left corner; Joanna and Matthieu, who are an adorable couple, are pictured below him and in the upper right corner, too. Paul and I are in the bottom center photo, and the whole gang that met are in the photo at the bottom right. More photos are at this link.
Joanna and Matthieu had never seen the Buttes Chaumont before, even though Matthieu is from Paris. They both enjoyed a quick tour of the park’s sites, as did Amber’s mom, Lynn.
Another Crisis in the ‘Hood
It was a week for crises.
A couple of nights ago, I heard what sounded like a big engine idling in front of our building, and when I turned to the window, I saw this:
My first thoughts were, “Not another fire! Is it in our building? Why don’t I smell smoke?”
I went over to the window, looked at the firetruck below, then looked closer into the tree where the ladder was aimed and saw that there was a large object in the tree:
I could not tell what it was until later.
Paul and I watched a firefighter go up the ladder…
… get the object, which I could then see was a large patio-type umbrella, and then make his way back down the ladder with the umbrella in hand.
He gave it to a lady and her son, who were waiting by the truck.
All this made me laugh like a loon. It was quite funny, like something out of a film, and reminded me of the old cliché about firefighters retrieving cats out of trees and the like. Cracked me up. In fact, I think the owner of the umbrella heard me because, while walking away with her umbrella, she looked up and gave me a sheepish smile. She had seen that I was taking photos. I smiled back. I’m glad she got her umbrella out of the tree.
The ladder was put back down…
… and the fire truck drove off into the sunset, another good deed accomplished by the superhero Sapeurs Pompiers de Paris.
More Window Watching
Here are more views out my window. See the black and white dogs? They were patiently waiting for their owner(s) this day, watching and barking at things going past. They were not yapping constantly, just giving a warning bark or two when other dogs came too near. Other people were doing various things in the plaza, too. I was happily snapping photos of the lady with the toddler feeding the pigeons, the Asian woman who was smoking a cigarette and then talking to a fellow who came up to her as if she knew him. I really should sit down to make up stories about these people I see. They fascinate me with their daily goings on.
A couple of days later, I noticed something.
A homeless couple I have seen a couple of times in the neighborhood this summer were resting in our plaza. The black and white dogs are theirs. This couple appears to be in their 20s, and they look kind of like homeless hippies. I usually see the girl sleeping like she is here, and the guy awake and observing what’s going on around him. I keep wondering what their story is — are they from Paris or another place in France? Are they from another European country? Why are they homeless and/or sleeping on the streets? Are they vacationing? (That may sound stupid, but you know some of those hippie types. This is like a poor [young] man’s version of a traveling vacation: “Hey! Let’s get a Eurail Pass and sleep on the streets of various European cities!” I’ve heard of stuff like that.)
This is a time when I wish I had enough French under my belt. I would totally go up and say “hi” and see if I could get some of their story. But pretty much all I can spit out is “hi” and then there would be not much point. I know, I know — I need to dive in and I am working up the nerve in some other situations, but I’m just going to have to wonder some more with this one.
I have written about street cleaning before, but in mid-June, Just Another American in Paris wrote an informative post called “Sweeping Clean,” in which she notes the hard work that the street cleaning crews do to keep Paris’ streets looking good. Our plaza is no exception. Not long after reading her post, I caught a worker opening the gutters, just as she’d explained, and sweeping the rubbish away. Some pigeons also got to take a bath.
Just Another American in Paris also wrote a wonderful post called “Soundtrack for My Street,” which captures so well the feeling of summertime in Paris. What she wrote is the authentic truth of Parisian summer streets in a very poetic way. I loved it. I hope you will, too.
This past week, I had the fortune of gathering with three lovely women.
Wednesday night, June 30, I connected with Brigitte and Dawn, whom I met at the picnic that blogger Leesa had organized a couple of weeks ago. We sat under the Eiffel Tower at sunset (which, remember, is between 9:30 and 10:00 pm) and had a lovely picnic. More photos are at the end of this set on Flickr: June 2010. I got some phenomenal shots of the Eiffel Tower, so go to the set to check them out, if you like. (There’s a video there, too. I would have put it on YouTube, but the upload there bonked so I did not bother further with it.)
Just this morning (Friday, July 2), I connected with Piglet in France from Lyon!
We met up and went to a Starbucks near Pyramides just down from the Opéra Garnier. I took the photos of us on my camera, and noted to Piglet how they looked like those photos you get in a photo booth, so I played with them and make them look like a film strip. 🙂 If you would like to see it in color, go here. To see another really lovely photo of Piglet, who is just as kind and bright as she is in her blog, go here. I am so glad that I got to meet her!
In closing, it will be one year on July 5 since I posted my first entry here at An Alien Parisienne. This year has gone quickly, but looking back over my entries and Flickr uploads for this past year, I have done a lot of things. I have this blog to thank for meeting several people I now call friends, and it has transformed the way I view Paris, which is exactly what I hoped it would do!
In the coming year, I hope that I can share more of my stories of what is sometimes an extraordinary life here in Paris, but is more typically the view from my dining area window. 😉
Thank you, all of you who come and read, and a big thank you who leave your kind words and helpful advice in the comments. It is a joy to participate in this Parisian experience with you.
Over and out.
An Alien Parisienne
P.S. Happy Independence Day to my American compatriots! I almost forgot that was this weekend… We’re kind of more focused on the World Cup quarterfinals and the end of school (which is today) here. And La Fête Nationale is on the 14th. We’ll combine the two events, I think, in our household, although tomorrow we are participating in something interesting! More on that soon, I hope.