Paris pictures are a little industry all to themselves — I’ve even been known to make a few. But Instagram users have pulled more than a half-million together under the hashtag #ParisMaVille, and they are fun.
Here, for example, is The Balloon Diary, a short video that reminds me in a good way of The Red Balloon, the 1956 short film.
It’s part of a website, TheBalloonDiary, made by Anna Dawson, an Australian who followed her muse to Paris. Her site said she and significant other made the video in collaboration with Autolib, the French car-by-the-hour rental service.
My first novel has a complete new look — a new cover, and a polished new text.
English artist Jane Dixon-Smith of JD Smith Design created the new cover. It again features the Eiffel Tower, but in color, and in a more somber photo than the first edition cover.
Jane also designed the cover of my next novel, Last Stop: Paris, which will be published in a couple of months. I wanted the cover of Treasure to be similar in spirit to the new one, which I’ll show you in a day or two, after the paperback proofs arrive from the printer.
A Complimentary Blurb
Treasure’s new cover also includes a complimentary blurb from Ronald C. Rosbottom, author of When Paris Went Dark, which is a finalist for the American Library in Paris 2015 book award. It’s a fascinating book for those who love Paris or want to know about the German Occupation during World War II, and I highly recommend it.
I have also lightly edited the text but made no major changes to plot or characters.
The new edition is available in the Amazon Kindle store today, and will replace the paperback first edition in about two weeks.
Rue Daguerre is always a hoppin’ place, but on Sundays it really comes to life. It’s a magnet for Parisians and tourists looking for a good lunch or really choice groceries – today we bought slices of an outstanding rolled veal roast, from a butcher who normally deals only in poultry. It was a good dinner.
Rue Daguerre is in the 14th arrondissement, south of the major attractions, one of the middle-class districts without a lot of tourist interest. It is only 630 meters long, and its anchor at the east end is the wide Avenue du Général Leclerc. A grateful France renamed it in 1948 in honor of the French general who led his armored division up the avenue seventy-one years ago during the fight for the Liberation of Paris (August 1944). Today there’s an interesting museum to his life above Gare Montparnasse.
Until the 1990s the first block of the rue, the most active part, was a covered shopping street. Today it’s a mostly pedestrian area with a half-dozen restaurants, a couple of vegetable vendors (primeurs, who only sell the prime stuff), a fancy honey shop, a little general store where you can find just about anything, two grocery stores and a wine merchant. Plus thousands of people.
It is part of Montparnasse. The west end of the rue is only a short walk from the Montparnasse railway station (Gare Montparnasse). Hemingway’s haunts aren’t far away, Simone de Beauvoir lived nearby, and Calder had a studio on one of the side streets. The apartment we rented this year has a view across Montparnasse cemetery, an oasis of green in city of stone. And there’s much more in the neighborhood.
One of the traditional go-to spots on the rue is Café Daguerre, which dominates the corner. It serves a great breakfast (either French or “English,” depending on whether you want an omelet; I had one, with ham). It seems to be open all the time, and there’s very little turnover among waiters. This is our fifth year to stay in the 14th and the faces seem to be pretty much the same.
Café Daguerre is where I learned to appreciate the “café gourmand,” a platter of small desserts with an expresso. It was developed a decade ago as a way to speed up lunch, but I view it as my chance to sample three or four different desserts at the same time.
Rue Daguerre was named after Louis Daguerre, who introduced the daguerreotype photograph in the early 1800s. He’s considered one of the fathers of modern photography and is one of the few luminaries whose names are engraved on the Eiffel Tower.
The great square just above Rue Daguerre, Place Denfert-Rochereau (Google images), is one of the city’s major transportation hubs. It provides access to two metro lines, the RER B suburban train (which goes straight to Degaulle airport), and a half-dozen city buses.
It’s the entrance to the Catacombs, the ossuaries moved to the old quarries under the Left Bank when the Right Bank cemeteries burst their banks and threatened the city with disease and unpleasantness. (Most of Paris was built from stone quarried under the city, but that’s another story.)
Seventy feet under the square the bunker from which the Résistance fight for the Liberation 71 years ago was directed; it was built before the war as a precaution and the Germans seem not to have found out about it. My latest information is that it’s now used for temperature-controlled plant science.
PARIS has a tradition of free public entertainment, including the French Open tennis tournament. For years, spectators could go to downtown Paris to watch on a large screen in the open courtyard of City Hall, but this year the screen moved to the large open lawn in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, on the Champs de Mars.
On Wednesday I went to the Tower to check it out. The usual large crowd bustled around the ticket windows while, fifty yards away, grifters and their confederates — mostly thimblerig and friendship bracelet scammers — prospected for gullible tourists.
A hundred yards away the lawn fenced off for tennis fans was almost full. A souvenir stand, much like those at Roland Garros stadium, attracted only a few customers. A fenced area nearby, which looked like a long batting cage, gave would-be Nadals or Djokovics a chance to test their serve against a speed gun like the ones used at the real stadium. While I was there, no one came close.
World’s Largest Tennis Ball
In honor of the tournament, the Eiffel Tower management hung what looks like the world’s largest tennis ball between the second and third floors. It’s hard to miss.
The Tower’s New Wind Turbines
If you look closely at the tips of the arrows in my picture below you’ll see the glint of the sun reflecting off the blades of the new wind turbines installed at the 400-foot level. The vertical-axis turbines are designed to power the commercial parts of an entire floor, as this article from The Verge explains well. The Guardian has more information about the turbines and the other steps the Tower’s management has taken to reduce its environmental footprint.
The Match They Saw: Djokovic-Nadal
Here’s a closer picture of the screen, showing Nadal (in blue) serving to Djokovic at the end of the first set. Djokovic went on to win, setting up his semi-final match today against Andy Murray. (With Djokovic leading 2-1 and games even at 3-3 in the fourth set, play was suspended at 8:30 pm CET as thunderstorms began to sweep over Paris. The match will resume at 1 pm Saturday.)
Who was Roland Garros?
How did one of the world’s four major tennis tournaments come to bear the name of an aviator who died almost a century ago?
It’s confusing. We know the tournament as the French Open, but its official name is “Les internationaux de France de Roland-Garros.” It is named after the stadium complex, “Le Stade de Roland Garros,” which in turn is named for a World War I French aviator who played there when he was a student, so no one in Paris calls the tournament anything but “Roland Garros.”
Garros is credited with designing the first workable way to allow a fighter pilot to fire a fixed fuselage-mounted machine gun without hitting his own propeller blades and shooting himself down (it used metal wedges on the blades to deflect the bullets). He was also the first person to cross the Mediterranean Sea by air. Wikipedia has a good account of his life and times.
He was shot down and killed a month before the end of World War I.
There’s a neat new feature in Apple’s MAPS app under iOS – Flyover. It’s available for several major cities, but of course I think the Paris one is the neatest.
Open Maps on the iPhone or iPad and search for Paris. Under the city name you’ll see a line saying “3D Flyover Tour of Paris.” Press “Start” to the right and enjoy. The screenshots I’ve posted below will give you an idea of what to expect.
I enjoyed watching as the (virtual) overhead camera took me from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Seine islands, the Grand Palais and the Arc de Triomphe. It’s virtual reality with the emphasis on real, other than the missing throngs around the glass pyramid at the Louvre and the chaotic traffic bustling around Place Charles de Gaulle.
At 125 years old, the Eiffel Tower is under almost constant painting and renovation, but the most recent has a crowd-scaring twist.
The city has just spent 30 million euros updating the first floor, 180 feet above the ground. In addition to cosmetic upgrades and solar panels, part of the flooring was replaced with glass, a change that garnered mixed reviews from early visitors, as the AP report below shows.