Metropole Turns 7 Again

photo: rue st eleuthere, montmartre

Shadows, haze and hints of light, on Montmartre.

Without Even an Award for Overtime

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 24. February 2003:- Last week's winter has reluctantly given up its bitterness in the face of spring - certainly a 'faux' one - but real enough as long as it lasts. It has a good chance of doing this for a few days because the Paris' area school holidays are over.

While the sun shines and temperatures are over the 10 degree mark - slightly above 50 F - the daily forecasts are gloomier than the reality. It is kind of nice to sit in front of the TV while the weather guy says Wednesday has nothing good in store, while being pretty sure it is going to be a good as Monday, which wasn't given a rave preview either.

For the near future the outlook is reversed. Tempting fate, sunny skies are forecast for the next couple ofphoto: boulangerie, norvins days, with maybe a bit more cloud cover on Thursday. Temperatures are supposed to be almost warm enough for waterskiing on the Seine - 14 or 13 degrees, which is between 55 and 59 F. If true, not too shabby for February.

Utrillo's boulangerie at Norvins finally gets a dab of paint.

The biggest problem for visitors will be their cameras' automatic exposure systems. These will be hard-pressed to cover the light range from low, over-bright sunrays to the inky shadows in the places where moss traditional grows.

With traditional 35 mm film, there is a wider sensitivity range, and modern photo printing will decide what to do with the negatives - sometimes over-riding dramatic effects you've planned on purpose.

Digital cameras do not have an exposure range as wide or as fine, so the best thing to do is fix the exposure on the lightest thing you can find - to avoid snow-like white-outs. This will leave shadows as impenetrable as ink, but if you have the software for it, details in the shadows can sometimes be pulled out.

Café Life

Metropole Is 7 Again

I have been reading a book that is going to be reviewed here. This was supposed to be for this week, but I spent so much time reading it that it will have to wait.

Its title is 'Van Gogh Walks... Paris' and it is by Priscilla Bain-Smith. When Vincent wasn't preaching, praying or painting, he did a lot of walking around, as well as living in about 26 places. He did a lot of talking with friends and a lot of drinking with them.

The only thing he didn't manage to do was sell any paintings, even though his brother Theo was an art dealer. Anyway, they lived together for a while in the Rue Lepic on Montmartre, and other painters lived nearby and so did friends.

I can't read a book like this without having the map handy, and then the street dictionary comes out too, and before I know it four hours have passed, and I am stuck in an alley named the Rue Saint-Rustique - trying to verify if it contains Paris' 'oldest' restaurant.

Worried that the 'review' might turn out longer than the book, I took a break for a café. While doing this the notion popped into my head that it might be Metropole's birthday again.

I looked it up and sure enough, the first issue has the date of 26. February 1996. What I haven't looked upphoto: rue berthe, montmartre is last years' 7th anniversary - because it really is this year. 'Reports' from Paris started in March of 1995, but Metropole did not start until a year later.

If last year was 'faux' this year is really real. And since it is seven, I am wondering if the 'Law of Sevens' will apply here. Whatever it is exactly, it may not apply, because in some cases it gets doubled to 14. But it would still remain within the general rule of the 'Law of Sevens.'

Ups and downs in the Rue Berthe on Montmartre's south side.

So, the question is - do I quit now or am I supposed to go for the double? This morning a compromise occurred to me - forget 'sevens' and hold out for a simple decade - keep doing Metropole until March of 2007.

To tell you truth, with the weather like it is today I would prefer to go outside and walk around in the February sunshine without carrying a notebook, a reporter's official Bic pen and a camera.

Guys In Skirts

I was up on Montmartre on Friday. I was looking for the 'hustling' portrait artists who are complaining about the lack of 'Bohème.' I was also looking vaguely for Vincent, without actually being in the Rue Lepic. And I was looking for hundreds of Scots guys wearing kilts.

One of the portrait artists described their banning from the Place du Tertre as, "Le triomphe de la bistrocratie."

Of the Scots I saw three. They were in town to celebrate the 'Auld Alliance,' which Charles De Gaulle once said was the oldest in the world. Every Scot over 12 is supposed to know about the treaty between John Balliol and Philippe Le Bel, signed on Sunday, 23. October 1295 - which was intended to annoy the English.

Anyhow, the République de Montmartre, which only dates to 1920, has had Paris' mayor, Bertrand Delanoë, who is also 'Grand Mousquetaire de la République de Montmartre,' sponsor Edinburgh's mayor Eric Millighan, as 'Ambassador of the Vielle Alliance.'

This translated into the 'Ecosse à Montmartre' weekend, featuring whisky, haggis, various other Celts, more whisky and a march of bagpipers both on Montmartre and another from Trocadéro - to support the efforts of Marie Curie Cancer Care, which has a branch in Scotland in addition to the institute here.

Lurking behind this, was yesterday's rugby match between France and Scotland. One of the fans told me about '2000 pipers' being on the Champ de Mars on Saturday. It was so bright that the Tour Eiffel looked dusty, and I didn't see the '2000' whole pipers exactly, and Scotland lost the rugby match. But nobody cares because of the whisky, the haggis, and the guys in skirts.

All You Can Eat

Last Friday was the first time I can remember eating in an 'all you can eat' place. If I ever ate in any others, I don't remember them, and that's why I wouldn't go looking for one.

It was entirely by accident. The group I was with was a hour late getting to the first place, and there were 14 other diners waiing their turns in line. So our leader dragged us across the street to the 'all you can eat' place.

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