Monday, July 31, 2006

When One Opens a Window in Paris

Windows without Screens

Windows are wonderful in Paris. I open the windows to the apartment quite often, especially in the summer during the evenings and night to let the cool breeze pass through. To the amazement of my curious American family and friends, no one has window screens in Paris or in France. At first I thought this was strange myself and then after thinking about it, I wondered why we really need screens after all.

Winged Creatures

There are very few house flies or mosquitoes in Paris. Paris is a city and one would expect fewer flies. But the streets are not exactly clean, ahem, and there are many opportunities to breed baby flies. Quite possibly the answer is the multitude of martinets or common swifts who patrol the skies of Paris. Arriving in May from Africa, announced by their little 'scree-scree' sounds and they must consume a huge number of flying insects.

I wonder about the larger flying creatures entering through an open window. There are the ground-loving grey pigeons or pigeon biset and the larger pigeons colombin much like what I think of as mourning doves, but they do not seem to mount to any sort of elevation unless they are going somewhere and then again they do not seem to be interested in entering an open window.

There are certainly other birds in Paris such as crows and seagulls but none seem to be tempted by an open window either.

With that to say, open, screenless windows are normal, even the floor to ceiling, walk-out type like I have. I do have a narrow balcony but being on the 7ème étage or the 8th floor as Americans count them, I am not worried by critters entering my apartment.

A Visitor

One warm evening while being a mouse potato at my computer, I saw a brief movement, a shadow over my left shoulder. I turned and looked. There in my the middle of my bedroom on the 8th floor of the building, looking straight at me, was a very large black cat with large yellow eyes.

I rose and called but the cat leapt out the floor-to-ceiling window... (don't worry)... onto the balcony and ran past the rather decorative but ineffective separation between my apartment's balcony and that of my neighbors. Obviously the neighbors had their walk-out window open and being curious creatures, the cat explored.

Two more times I saw the cat in the apartment. One morning I woke early to a small noise and went to investigate. Yes, it was the cat in my office playing with something. We looked at each other and the cat ran out the bedroom window.

The last time I saw the black cat was over one month ago. I had left my bedroom window closed because of a rather strong breeze during the night and when I rose for the day and entered the living room where the window was open, there was the black cat in the middle of the living room. We looked at each other for a second and the cat ran for the bedroom window. He stopped and looked at the closed window. Ooops. After two seconds of panic the black cat dashed back into the living room and desperatelyy sprang out of the open living room window on the 8th floor.... Hopefully he did not slip into the void.... But I have not seen him since.

.... and my windows are open right now.

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Sunday, July 23, 2006

Tour de France 2006 ends in Paris

The Tour de France 2006 ended today on the Champs Elysées after the racers traveled more than 2000 miles throughout all regions of France.

19 of the 20 teams completed the trip and each team, sponsored by a major company, wore colorful jerseys and rode bicycles that were obviously technically excellent. The race went from the Concorde to the Arc de Triomph (four round-trips) allowing the thousands of spectators chances to capture a photo or two.

Surprisingly after the reign and retirement of American Lance Armstrong, another American won. Floyd Landis from Pennsylvania won by a 'nail biter' and his joy showed as he took the 'victory lap' along the grand boulevard.

The photographers stormed Landis whenever he stopped and he greatfully allowed them to do their work.

Even Lance was there along the Champs Elysées......

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When it's Hot in Paris and Other Thoughts

When It's Hot

The last couple weeks have been warm for Paris, up into the mid 90s. It is very rare to have air conditioning in Paris so we have suffered a little. Well, one dresses for the heat and shutters the windows during the day and opens them in the evening and night. Everyone is eating salads along the sidewalk cafés and drinking chilled rosé wine.

This evening the weather is quite comfortable with a small breeze flowing through the ap
artment and the temperature being in the lower 70s. When it was warmer this afternoon I took a siesta and now I can enjoy staying up later this evening.

The Paris Plage

The Paris Plage (Paris Beach) opened Wednesday and everyone is taking advantage. Several tons of sand were brought in, beach chairs, umbrellas, etc. along the Seine and there is a vacation spirit. I will go down tomorrow and take a few photos.

The Tour de France (bicycle race) arrives in Paris tomorrow finishing along the Champs Elysées after having spent several previous weeks with stages in most parts of France. Now that Lance Armstrong has stopped participating, the field is open and it is amazing that an American again will probably win tomorrow.

All said, tomorrow will be charged, starting with housekeeping in the morning, Tour de France mid-afternoon and then Paris Plage in the late afternoon. Hopefully, I can do everything on the schedule.

The Coupe du monde

There is usually something in the papers each day about Zidane and the Coupe du Monde. He was fined last week and suspended for three games, even if he is retired. There is not much one can do about that unfortunate lack of judgment in the last minutes of the last game of Zidane’s career. Certainly everyone was buzzing about the game and it still comes up in conversation. Most people here think that even if he was insulted, the head butt wasn’t very sportive and uncalled for. The speech after the game of Jacques Chirac was empty when he praised Zidane for his contribution, for giving France hope and for his excellent sportsmanship… dohhh. Guess he had that written before the game.

Bordeaux and Region

The trip to Bordeaux was quite good the weekend of 14-Juillet. I took the train to Bordeaux and then by car to the Medoc and saw the famous wine chataux, most of which were closed for the holiday and the weekend....hmm. I did not realize that the Grand Chateaux require a reservation one month in advance (Lafite Rothschild, Chateaux Margaux, etc.) and the lesser known require one week’s reservation. Well, I did visit two lesser châteaux but I was not impressed with the wine I tasted. In the end, I did not buy any wine to lug back to Paris. I notice there are some of the same wines in my local supermarket for a few euros more than in Bordeaux. On the internet one can buy wine, the selection is greater but on has to pay for shipping. There is no free lunch but if the lunch includes a good wine, well… who cares ? The rest of the trip was to the west coast and beaches, then to the Saint Emillon region (more wine).

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Weekend at Arcachon

The weekend of 14th July was a long one with Friday being the Holiday. With just two extra vacation days, the Thursday before and the Monday after, I avoided the crowds traveling and I made a five-day weekend. The train from Paris to Bordeaux is just three hours and a huge difference in spirit.

Bastille Day (14-July) found me on the beach near the opening to the Atlantic from the Bassin d'Arcachon. Sun was setting and the surfers were taking advantage of the rather small but surfable waves. I do not know what type of surfing this is but the guys and one girl slid on boards on the thin sheet of water after a wave filled the beach and sometimes caught a breaker. The light was excellent and the air was very heavy with humidity after the hot day.

Facing the mouth of the Bassin d'Arcachon is a huge dune, some 100 plus meters rising from the beach below. When I climbed the pre-fab stairs on the land side, I had no idea the dune would be so huge. It stretches for several kilometers along the coast and is starting to envelope the forest on the leeward side.
Many of us arrived to watch the sunset perching near the summet of the first dune which overlooks the mouth of the Bassin d'Arcachon.
Several recreational boats of all sizes and shapes traveled in and out of the Bassin.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

World Cup Soccer in Paris

Paris is seldom dull and this week in particular has brought more than the usual level of excitement. France and indeed Paris are in a frenzy over the 'Coupe du Monde'. Last evening I watched most of the match of France versus Portugal. It was a little warm but pleasant (80degrees) and I left the windows open to the cool breeze as did the neighbors. Normally there are no sounds from the neighbors and indeed the apartment is usually quite calm and quiet. Well, except last evening when I could hear the cheers and groans from the multiple 'Coupe du Monde' parties. As soon as the match concluded with France's 1 to 0 victory, there were many loud cheers and soon there after, car horns blasted coming from everywhere. Although the match finished around 11pm, there were still honking horns well into the middle of the night. The standard rallying place is the Blvd des Champs Elysées but last night the celebration clearly spread throughout the city. I can only imagine the wild celebration if France wins the final on Sunday evening. I will have to take a nap Sunday afternoon just in case.