Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sun? Sun!

I have just been hit by the first ray of sun I've seen in a week.  Sitting on the couch in the apartment I suddenly realized that the light coming in the window was the sun.  Getting up off the couch was the next step.  Despite the grim weather we've been averaging about four miles a day and this afternoon I finally felt the need to put my feet up for a while.

But we can't let this pass, who knows when the sun might be out again, so we dashed out for a walk as did everyone else in the area.  Suddenly streets that had been echoingly empty were filled with strollers and finding an outdoor café table became a challenge.  We finally played tourist and snagged a table at Deux Magots to watch people pass by.  For the first time in a week I wore my sandals, wore no jacket and left the umbrella at home.  Summer might really show her face.

Earlier in the day we had checked out the Seine to see what the water level was.  Late Friday was when it was expected to peak and then begin to recede.  It did in fact look about 8-12 inches lower, judging by the water marks on the tree trunks that had been submerged.  The rising river had become THE tourist attraction of Paris, particularly as nearly all the museums near the river had closed to move threatened art from lower storage levels to safety on a higher floor.  The Louvre and Orsay museums continue to be closed until Tuesday, but the Grand Palais had reopened after only a day so we walked over there to see "Carambolages", a cleverly curated exhibition of many different works in many media, all hung to lead thematically from one to the next, like a row of dominoes. Very interesting and well worth the visit, as the Michelin guide would say.

Dinner at the apartment for only the second time in a week.  All this eating is getting old.  In Sicily I had been suffering from a bit of indigestion and had had very little appetite, which helped my waistline.  Here I'm eating as usual and the four or five miles of walking per day is only keeping it from growing back.

Postscript: woke up this morning to bright sun!  Fingers crossed for the rest of the week, despite the forecast.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Washed Away

So we headed for Paris, arriving on the rainiest day I've seen since Venice.  What is it with the weather in Europe lately?  In California climate change gives us drought.  In Europe it gives us floods. Yes, really.  Floods.  The Seine in Paris has risen to the Zouave's feet.  You probably don't have any idea what I'm talking about, but there is a statue of a colonial soldier called a Zouave on one of the bridges crossing the Seine in the center of Paris.  Traditionally the height of the river is measured by how high on the Zouave the water reaches.  His feet?  Pretty high.

We crossed the river today and did a double take.  All the riverside roads, i.e. the lower banks, where traffic runs along the Right Bank and where the Left Bank road has been replaced with pedestrian walks and cafés, and where in July the city installs a little "beach" called Paris Plage for Parisians who can't leave the city on vacation, all of this is underwater.  The barges and sightseeing boats are floating way too high and the arches under the bridges are not high enough above the water level to permit boat transit.  The underground Memorial to the Deportees at the point of the Ile de la Cité behind Notre Dame is closed because the crypt is inundated.  This is serious.

Not far from Paris, we see on the news, traffic on a major national highway is stalled because of flooding and drivers have been taken to shelters for the night.  Some towns are evacuating hospitals and prisons, not to mention private homes.  Not the kind of thing you think about when going on vacation.  

With luck, the next few days will be relatively dry. It didn't rain today.  Yesterday we went out to find Gene a waterproof jacket, something he got away without in the rain in Venice but it's worse here.  And today I bought a pair of sturdier shoes and an raincoat.  Those sandals I brought won't cut it.

We've set up a number of dates with old friends, dinners, drinks, movies.  We wander a bit saying things like "oh look, didn't that shop use to be a bar?"  We can't seem to work up much enthusiasm for going to the hot new restaurants even if I knew what they were.  It's quite nice sitting in a familiar café watching the world go by.  

Speaking of the world, much less of it seems to be here.  I've heard few American voices and the streets are much less crowded than a usual early June.  There's a sort of blanket of quiet over the city, which may of course just be the cloud cover.  People have said that business has been picking up after all the terrorist attacks but that the weather is keeping tourists away.  I don't think it's just tourists.  My very uninformed impression is that Parisians are staying home as well.