French

It was a day filled with French.  It started out at Monoprix where I went to stock up on the heavy things via Monoprix delivery.  Getting delivery is pretty easy and doesn’t require a great command of French.  Now that I am in the system (from last year), all I have to do is give my French mobile or portable number… in French, but of course.  And then they check you out as normal – which means you watch the gal scan the items and she hits the total key and you put your credit card into the machine.  And now, of course, I have a real Chip and PIN credit card, so I enter my PIN and it’s done.  No conversation necessary.  I walk home and wait.  The paper they give you says delivery between 10 and 1pm.  Which is fine.  Usually I don’t have anything else scheduled on a Monoprix delivery day – but today I did.  A guided tour of the Apartments of the Duchess at the Hotel Sully.  Had to be on my way about 1:30.  And normally, every past delivery, the guy shows up at 11.  The latest has been 12.  But not today.

Figures.  So at 1245 I call Monoprix.  And spoke French.  And had an argument.  She kept telling me that the paper was wrong and there were no deliveries before 11 and probably after 2.  We didn’t get very far because every time I told her that I have had deliveries at 11 before, she said it was a mistake.  Finally she transferred me… to a gentleman who didn’t really speak English either.  Now it’s 1250.  And just as I was making my point and he sort of understood, the doorbell rang and it was the delivery.  Whew.  So I said to the telephone, il arrive.  And tried to explain to the delivery guy who just said he was rapid… quick… whatever, not really but crisis averted and off to the next event.

2016-08-06 11.39.38And before I talk about the next event, let’s go back a few days to my tour in French of the Hotel Lauzun, built in 1657 on Ile St Louis.  It is small but I think it rivals Versailles.

2016-08-06 12.09.20  2016-08-06 11.59.34   2016-08-06 12.11.18

OK. Today’s next event was the tour of the Hotel Sully.  2016-08-12 16.02.44It’s a grand hotel particulier in the Marais.  I have crossed through the gardens several times using the semi-secret shortcut to the Place des Voges.  Did just that on Wednesday to meet a friend for lunch.  (French conversation with a compliment that I had improved greatly since he and I last met in May!)  And stopped in the bookstore there.  It’s a great bookstore.  One of the best bookstores I have ever seen in a French monument.  Know why?  Hotel Sully is actually the headquarters for the Centre des Monument Nationaux.  No wonder they have everything!  (Notice in the photo – the right side of the building is a bit crooked… it’s in the Marais district – Marais means swamp.  Guess the building settled…)

There are frequent tours of the place – but in July and August they have tours IN ENGLISH.  So I had signed up for that.  I have been going to the French tours lately, but I know I am missing information.  Why not take advantage of my mother tongue?

Want proof that the tourism has plummeted?  The tour in July had only two people.  This tour had me.  Yup.  A private tour.  Yikes.  Now I am sure this place is not at the top of everyone’s list, but still.  One person?  I read somewhere that the 5 stars hotels have seen a 45% drop in stays over the summer.  Now is the time to visit Paris.  Uncrowded.  You will be welcomed.

But back to French.  I spoke in French with all people at the reception and bookstore, excluding my tour guide.  And my tour guide may become a conversation partner when she comes back from… you guessed it – vacation.  The Apartments are just 3 rooms and nothing as fancy as Hotel Lauzun (see above), but still beautiful.  And mostly original.  The 2016-08-12 15.52.23ceilings from 1640 are amazingly beautiful.  Apparently, someone put in false ceilings in the 1800s when the place was divided up into smaller apartments.  That’s what preserved them.  And the guide made me look up in the bookstore.  Wow.  Original beam ceiling – painted beams!  How many times I was there and just looked at the books on the tables?

2016-08-12 17.04.24After Hotel Sully, I ambled over to the office of Paris Historique, a nonprofit dedicated to the history of Paris.  They are located almost across the street from the two medieval half-timber houses from the 14th century.  What’s amazing is that Paris Historique is also located in a very old building.  But you wouldn’t necessarily know it.  I stumbled upon it in one of my Medieval Paris books.  This gal didn’t speak English so I was back to a tour in French.  She took me downstairs to the cellars.  2016-08-12 16.44.59This building was built by a Cistercian order as their Paris town house.  The cellar was amazing.  Even with a door to a tunnel that went to the Seine back then.  They shipped food from the abbey located on the Oise River down to Paris and unloaded it straight into the cellar.  2016-08-12 16.54.11Then she took me upstairs to see the medieval courtyard.  And a photo of the terrible shape it was in during the 70’s.  Quite a bit of renovation, to put it mildly.

Back home, I called the Sixt car rental in Brest to check on my reservation – and nope, he didn’t speak English.  But I made myself understood and all is well for our rental on Monday.  I was a bit worried because I just noticed that Monday is August 15 and that is Assumption.  Another religious holiday that will result in Faire le Pont since it’s on a Monday.  No worries.  Sixt will be open.

Off to Brest on Monday with a Friday return.  I love Brittany but haven’t been in the north yet so this will be an adventure.  And more French to be spoken.  I am growing in confidence!

A bientot!

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August

In French, August is translated to aout.   Hmmm, maybe that is A OUT… short for   All Out.   As in All Out of Paris.   Because everyone is…

I discovered this last year and blogged about it then.  But it’s still strange.  Up and down the streets, shops are closed with their little signs posted with the summer fermatures.   Shops, restaurants, cafes, and boulangeries closed. Picard Surgeles stays open in aout but does close for two hours at lunch time on weekdays.

So think about it.  Fewer people.  Everyone is off to the provinces.  So that means less traffic on the roads and fewer riders on public transport.

Now I have a better understanding why the bus schedules show the time breakdown by Sept though June, then July and August together, and then holidays.  The buses do not run as frequently during these two summer months.  OK.  Fewer people – let’s run fewer buses- and maybe accommodate our drivers who want to be gone out of Paris at that time too.

But fewer people wreak havoc on the bus traveler – it’s not just a bus every 12 minutes instead of the usual every 10.  No.  Because there are fewer riders, there are fewer people at the stops.  So the buses end up making their route faster.   Think about it.  Bus A leaves at 9:00.  Bus B leaves at 9:12.   Bus A stops to pick people up.  Bus B follows.  But because Bus A has picked up the people, it is running at a usual pace.  Yet Bus B gets to the stop and there is no one there.  Riders were just picked up and there are fewer riders.  So Bus B sails along and eventually catches up to Bus A and then you have Bus A arriving at the stop and Bus B, instead of being 12 minutes behind, it’s maybe 2 minutes behind.  Which means that Bus C which should be leaving 24 minutes behind Bus A (and 12 behind Bus B), it won’t make it to the stop 12 minutes after Bus B, it will be closer to 22 minutes after Bus B because Bus B hasn’t had to stop as often as it normally does..

Really, that does work out.

I told you about the labor for the Markets in the last blog.  So I went to the marche Sunday.  And it’s almost empty.  Same labor for 60-70% fewer vendors.  Maybe 3 vegetable vendors.  Lots of clothes, lots of towels and sundries.  But pretty empty.  Again, it’s aout.  But I did try some bread from the market.  I usually go to the boulangerie but it is of course closed.  Pretty good bread!

But what about tourists, you ask?  Yes, they are   certainly here.  Nothing like last August when I went down to the parvis of Notre Dame (parvis is the public area in front of the cathedral.)  Last year it was packed.  But this is the first summer after the attacks and tourism is still down.  At my café near the Louvre, the buses still drop off their tourists, but far less.  And most are Chinese.  I know this because I was with my very interesting new American friend, Mary, who had lived in Hong Kong and speaks Mandarin.  She identified the language for me.  I am somewhat in awe of her – she moved to Hong Kong when she was 19.  Far braver than me.  Paris does have interesting residents.

Labor

Yikes.  I almost spelled that labour.  I must be preparing for my trips to London.  And, an aside…  it’s difficult to translate Yikes into French. (Oh wait, Google Translate says it’s beurk.)

Back to the point.  Labor – any way you spell it – is common in France.  I mean manual labor.  Many people are employed doing manual labor.  Like just now, the water truck goes down the street with two guys on each side manning hoses to wash off the street.  Maybe that’s common in big cities?  I have never seen it in Los Angeles nor in San Francisco or New York but admittedly my time in the last two is always limited.  Maybe my timing was bad and I just missed the street washing days…

Oh, I was wrong.  Today there is only one guy one hose.  I realized that when the truck came back down my street.  So someone calling in sick really does slow the process down – two trips down each street.  And there are many streets in my town.  BTW, they even clean/wash the street when it’s raining…

And then there’s the marches.

Each arrondisement has at least one marche.  http://www.paris.fr/marches

And most are under tarps.  The guys show up the day before or really early because they start at 8 and everyone has to be unloaded and ready by then.  The sidewalks have spots to place the pipes.  Then tarps are placed between the pipes so the market is a bit covered.

And then, of course, it all has to be taken down again and put on the trucks and driven away to storage.

Yes.  This is repeated three times a week.