Monday, April 23, 2012

Rain day

Well, all the local restos were open. There are so many! Didn't actually count them, but within an easy walk of our front door there must be at least six; three facing Square Medard, a couple just up the Rue Mouffe', a couple more going up Rue Monge, etc. There are cafés everywhere in Paris, not just on the big plazas and along shopping streets, but up alleys and in side streets. How do they all stay in business? We asked each other that, over a light supper of omelets and salad.

It has to be population density. Although the streets are generally quiet, there are a ton of people around when you think about it. Every street is lined solid with six-story buildings (exactly six stories owing to a very old height limit). The upper five floors, at least, are all apartments. Two to a floor, ten flats per building roughly, maybe 50-60 families resident on each side of each block. OK, if they eat out only one night a week on average, the residents of one block could keep a small restaurant alive. And the other nights, buy enough baguettes and croissants to keep the local boulangerie going, and there's as many of those as cafés.

The online weather is certain that it's going to rain today, although at 7am the sky is almost clear. So what to do on a rainy Lundi when all the museums are closed? Go shopping, of course!

Walking toward the bus stop, noticed again one of the Velib' bike rental stations. These are all over town and judging by the number of the gray bikes we see on the street, they are a big success.

If you have a carte amathyste, a purple transit pass card, you just slap it against the bike stand, the bike unlocks, and off you go. Lock it up at any other bike stand and the time is charged to your card. Don't know the rates.

We rode the #27 bus today instead of the Metro. Yoli had recommended it; the #27 runs often and goes right through the center courtyard of the Louvre, up to the Opera and the big department stores, on its way to the Gare St. Lazare. The same little Metro tickets we bought a bunch of on Saturday are used on the bus.

So we got off by the old Opera (a.k.a. Opera Garnier, to distinguish it from the new Opera house on the other side of town). We put a picture of it crowded with tourists in the sun on the Saturday posting. Today it was gray, windy and cold and nobody was hanging around. So we snapped a couple of details of the statuary and went on.

This picture needs a caption. Put your suggestions in the comments!

So just down the street was giant department store number one, Galeries Lafayette. We had three items to look for: a light bathrobe, a drapey sort of sweater for Marian, and/or a stylish hat for David. Hit all the floors, no luck. Well, there was a fairly nice light bathrobe for €220. Merci, non.

However, the main store building (of two) has a central court with a dramatic glass dome.

Two more floors below not shown.

Next door is Printemps, another famous department store. This has three connected buildings, and the middle one has on its roof, a cafeteria with an open deck. We went up there for a break. By now it was windy and raining. A group of young women were not about to let that keep them from a picture.

This would be a great spot to nosh and look at the view, on a nicer day.

The fuzzy spots in this picture are from raindrops on the lens!

Having traipsed through all floors of two huge stores, payed €1.50 to use a toilet, and found nothing to buy, we went down into the wet streets to view La Madeleine.

This vast pseudo-greek barn was originally built to be a monument to Napoleon's army, a plan that was set aside after said army was defeated and nearly wiped out in Russia. So eventually it was converted to a church. Inside it is gloomy. But dry and warm, a definite recommendation today!

Outside, we noticed a stand where electric cars are for rent, on terms very similar to the rental bikes. This experiment (described in a BBC news report) is supposed to be expanded to 3,000 cars and 1,000 charging stations by year-end.

The rain was getting heavier.

So we beat it for home and spent the afternoon warm and dry. By suppertime it was again partly cloudy but distinctly colder. We ate at yet a different local café, having tartine which is sort of like... well, if you can imagine a bruschetta scaled up to dinner-plate size, or else a personal pizza with the pizza crust replaced by a big slice of toasted french bread, that's a tartine. With a little salad on the side, nice light supper. The clientele at this café was noticeably different from the last two in the same neighborhood: almost all young 20- and 30-somethings, rather studenty, talking loudly.

The Gallery Is Open

Oh and by the way: all the pictures we put in the blog, and more that we don't, are in the Smugmug Gallery. You can open that link and browse all the pics. There is a "Slideshow" button top right; if you click that, be patient. Even with Crowe's hot internet service, it takes several seconds for the full-screen slideshow to start.

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