Saturday, December 31, 2016

I Did A Search And Found This In An Old David Lebovitz Blog Post

I have been coming to Paris and staying in apartments since very late last Century.

I have documented elsewhere how unlikely that turn of events in my life was.

Which is perhaps why I have savored every minute in ways that I have savored few other things.

The grossly-unexpected often leaps ahead of the wonderful-but-sort-of-part-of-things, components of one’s life.

The longest sojourn has been five months; there was a four and lots of ones and twos.

One of the recurring deliciously mundane components of those stays has always been the daily – usually mid morning – trip to the boulangerie for the day’s bread.

Early in that deliciousness I thought I knew that that long, long baguette - of which there are usually an awful lot on display, and from which a constant stream of guys with huge brown paper bags fill those bags and go off someplace, presumably to a restaurant where the bagful is the daily supply necessary to provide the never ending baskets of bread that accompany most of the plats that the restaurant’s customers consume – was baked according to a government recipe and sold at a government controlled price.

That mythology included the belief that that baguette and its government guidance dated back to the French Revolution.

In the intervening years since 1998 I have occasionally thought about researching what, if any, truth there was in my long held baguette belief; I just never got around to it.

Today for no apparent reason I did a computer search and found the following on David Lebovitz’s  blog:

“La baguette ordinaire by law, can only have three ingredients: flour, yeast, and salt, and must weigh 250 g. These guidelines were set up a decade ago to prevent the quality of bread from deteriorating and to maintain the standards of this all-important staff of French life. But in spite of the fact there’s literally a bakery on every block in Paris, it can be difficult to find a good one. Some of the fault lies with the bakers since the price of baguettes are also controlled by the government, and there’s not much profit to be made in something that costs a pittance, around 80 centimes. And a half a baguette is 40 centimes. Can you imagine getting someone in America off their duff for a fifty-cent item?”

Find the rest of that post at baguettes.

I am interested that he uses the term “baguette ordinaire” which has been a term that I thought that I had invented while standing in the bread line one Sunday morning, after having said “une baguette, sil vous plais” – this being said in the cases when I want the government issue (I believed according to my myth) item, not the “traditional” or other named baguettes, like la Monge - and got the reply “pardon?”  

When I said “une baguette ordinaire” in response to that “pardon” I got again, “pardon?”

So I pointed.

That frequently works.

I ask for the ordinaire when I want to make a sandwich poulet and take it and a demi bouteille de vin rouge along with my travel wine glass to Parc Montsourris for lunch by the little lake, hoping to see some parrots; the ordinaire is a perfect sandwich platform; the sour dough variety – la Monge, la Tradi etc. - are too dense for a comfortable sandwich; but they are great split into quarters and slathered with butter for breakfast.

It turns out, according to David, most of what I had thought about there being some guidelines, and there being an “ordinaire”, which I had begun to believe that I must have imagined, and there being a controlled price is true; however, the dates involved are much more recent than I had thought. 

The price is now one euro, with the demi half of that (French symmetry).

In 2006 l’ordinaire cost 92 centimes; I don’t remember what a demi cost, but a bet would be 46 centimes.

If that is true, an interesting economic corollary may be that a baguette ordinaire can only be priced in even numbers of centimes – a euro being a hundred. 

So I guess the economics haven’t changed.

When I ask for “une tradi, sil vous plais” they say “pardon?”

It doesn’t matter, it turns out, what I say or how I say it.

My most successful open ended encounter during this stay was when, in a bricolage, I used my talking French dictionary on my iPhone to buy a sewing kit.

I guess Siri’s accent is better.

paris 2016 baguette cheese and butter with fruit bowl 120816 00000

Friday, December 30, 2016

27 December 2016: A Nice Day On La Seine

Today was as beautiful as it ever gets in Paris in December.

I got out a little earlier than I usually do: 1145.

The plan was to walk to Pont Alexandre III and then back to Pont Neuf and across to rue Dauphine and an Indian restaurant I have been wanting to try; I was going to have a late lunch.

I have not taken many pictures recently; I had assumed that that was going to be a condition of stasis for the balance of this sojourn, that I had run out of shutter clicks.

The minute I got down to the river level quai I found that to have changed.

I didn’t notice until later that my camera had gotten confused when building this panorama.

paris 2016 panorama de la seine 122716 00000

“It’s the light” I muttered to myself.

“It’s because, suddenly, an entirely new layer in the nearly infinite palimpsest of Paris light conditions has revealed itself, and I have – today – peeled it back; yet again I have been vindicated in my indomitable drive to piss away what little net worth I have on wandering the streets and quais of Paris”

(My reveries can get pretty heavy out there on the streets and quais.)

“So let’s roll with the light” I said to no one in particular.

The rest of the images are children of that perception.

The panorama is of Pont du Carousel; here is one of it alone – with Pont Royale peeking through Carousel’s arch from its place down river; Pont Royale is where La Frégate is, on Quai Voltaire at rue de Bac, and it is also at the down river end of le Louvre.

paris 2016 pont du carousel 122716 00000

The arches under Pont Royale make a nice frame.

paris 2016  under pont du carousel 122716 00000

Next down river I thought l’Assemblée Nationale looked pretty good.

paris 2016 l'assemblée nationale 122716 00000

It wasn’t long before I was coming up to the berry bush that, on a day previous, coming from the opposite direction, I got some good pictures of a merle noire eating the berries.  He was there today and I got a few not very good, but fairly interesting pictures of him; he was eating berries again, so he ignored me and I was able to get close-ups with minimal zoom.

paris 2016 merle noire in the berries 122716 00000

A while back I took this same picture of la tour truncated by fog and bracketed by two of the golden horses of Pont Alexandre III.

Here is today’s clear weather version – and coated in a new peel off the palimpsest of Paris light.

paris 2016 tour bracketed 122716 00000

And with new light I am never able to resist taking a close up of Alexandre’s horses.

paris 2016 gold horse on pont alexandre III 122716 00000

A copper sculpture on top of le Grand Palais needed to be included.

paris 2016 top of grand palais 122716 00000

I crossed the river on Pont Alexandre III and didn’t see much to shoot (that was the dark side of the river, out of the sun, so light driven inspiration was limited).

But, looking across occasionally induced a shutter click.

paris 2016  the ferris wheel 122716 00000

paris 2016 la oblisque de la concorde 122716 00000

I went back across at Pont du Carousel and took a few pictures of some cormorants that I had seen in a sweet gum tree as I had gone the other direction earlier; the light was better now.

I walked on and crossed back to rue Dauphine at Pont Neuf to have my Indian lunch.

It was amazingly sub standard.

I was disappointed.

So I trudged on up river after lunch and got a few more pictures.

paris 2016 au quai 122716 00000

Thursday, December 22, 2016

La Code: Follow On

A couple of days ago I got my chance.

The clerk asked if I knew my code.

I did.

I keyed it on the credit card machine.

The machine said “code bon” and I got 4.87 euros credit.

I feel as if I am now a French citizen.

Which is good because I totally agree with this editorial comment that I saw alongside l’Arsenal de Paris in front of La Bastille.

Maybe I need to stay here in France?

paris 2016 political message by la bastille 122216 00000

As The Days Get Longer

I didn’t go out “officially” (officially is that time of day after any trips to the marché or to Carrefour for supplies precede real and serious attempts to hit the streets and take some images) until about 1430 today.

It rained overnight, all night, and didn’t stop until about 1000 here; the rain made the air so clear and clean it didn’t seem like Paris; I waited until it quit to go out.

Since I didn’t get up until 0915 I didn’t have to do pretend work in the apartment very long.

About 1045 I went out and went to my Thursday Market and replenished my olives and bought a baguette and headed back to the apartment.

But before I departed the Thursday Market I decided to walk up Boulevard St Germain and see if I could find a place that sold drinking glasses that might host a Bloody Mary.

I didn’t find any.

Then I decided to go to Carrefour and buy some of the Bloody Mary makings even though I didn’t have any glasses big enough to make a drink.

I thought Carrefour, being what it is, might have something that would work for glasses.

They did; I found PLASTIC glasses that were marginally of a size to support a Bloody Mary; I bought two; I am still going to look for glass glasses before 25 December happens.

So  - having found les verres de Bloody Mary - I then bought all the other stuff I would need for my Christmas morning breakfast drinks.


I can’t find celery seeds or Lee and Perrins; I am probably doomed to disappointment resulting from the quality of the drinks that I am going to make.

But I will make the best of it.

As I was walking along the left quai of Isle de Saint Louis I saw a swan.

I see lots of swans, and I take pictures of some of them; but I usually don’t feel some sort of connection with any of them

This one was different; he or she was just too beautiful to pass up.

So you get several images of that bird.




When I got back up on the mainland I had to take a picture of a street sign.

paris 2016 street sign 122216 00000


And then, after crossing back over at Pont de Austerlitz, as I was heading back down to river level, as I passed the cop dock, I heard some parrots making noise; sure enough – two this time – a pair maybe, landed outside the knot hole where the one bird posed for me several weeks ago.

I think the one in this picture is a male.

The other one was definitely female.

I wish I could be here in the spring; I have never seen baby parrots.

paris 2016 une perruche de paris 122216 00000

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Next To The Shortest Day Of The Year

It was apartment cleaning day which meant that I needed to get out and stay out.

So I decided to leave as close to 1100 as possible – it turned out to be 1130 – and walk for two hours to Bois de Vincennes and then take the metro back; and if that all worked out symmetrically, the plan was, I would end up somewhere near somewhere that I could have lunch about 1500.

Sans petite dejeuner, I stopped at Carton and bought a croissant for sustenance until 1500.

I decided to take a different route to le bois; so there are some new scenes here.

First, we have the answer to the question “what ever happened to le grande magazin Samaritaine?

(Answer: it is going to be a home for the beautiful people.)

paris 2016 samaritaine 122016 00000

Next I saw la Tour Saint Jacques which is what is left of l’eglis Saint Jacques; I think the church was destroyed during the Revolution. The gold guy is Saint Michel.

paris 2016 tour st jacques and saint michel 122016 00000

La Tour is close to City Hall so I took her picture.

paris 2016 hôtel de ville 122016 00000

I kept going along la côte droit of Isle de la Cité and took the bridge over to Isle de Saint Louis; as quickly as possible I went down some steps so I was on the quai at water level; I had to take a picture of a boat that appeared where you see it back on a dark dreary day in 2012 and has been there ever since; I thought a sunny day made a picture of it mandatory.

paris 2016 la seine 122016 00000

I have never seen La Seine as being other than – best case – cloudy; this is amazing.

paris 2016 rocks on the bottom of the seine 122016 00000

These steps lead down even closer to the river than I already was, and it leads to a reciprocal set of steps that go up to Pont Sully, which is where I crossed over to the mainland and Quai Henri IV. As an aside, there were two parrots screeching and flying around Henri’s Quai; that is in addition to sightings I have made down by the catacombs, on Quai Bernard, across from la Grande Palais and down by the cop dock; adding those new, this year, sightings to the ones that I have already documented in Parc Montsourris, Le Jardin de Luxembourg, le Jardin des Plantes and le Bois de Vincennes, makes me think that, in a few years, there will be as many parrots as there are pigeons – or at least crows or terns.

paris 2016 steps on isle de st louis 122016 00000

As I walked through l’Arsenal I finally got a decent picture of this bush; I have been trying for weeks.

paris 2016 red stemmed bush 122016 00000

Once on the Promenade I was once again beguiled by a rose.

paris 2016 paris rose on la promenade plantée 122016 00000

In le Bois some mistletoe caught my attention.

paris 2016 misteltoe in bois de vincennes122016 00000

And then there was the swan song on Lac Daumesnil.

paris 2016 swan on lac daumesnil in bois de vincennes122016 00000

Monday, December 19, 2016

La Code

During a four month stay in Paris in 2010, one the things I accomplished was getting une carte fidélité from Carrefour.

Since doing so involved saying “oui” to the question from the checkout clerk in a fairly long mid-day checkout line: “do you have a card? would you like a card?” and resulted in a paper application being handed to me so that I could fill it out – with all those always patient Parisians waiting in line behind me, the whole episode constituted quite an adventure.

And I remember a blog post that I wrote documenting this occurrence in excruciating, and, I hoped, hilarious detail.

But I can’t find it so there is no annoying link to something I have said on this blog previously.

Anyway, since then I have that card.

And when I am in Paris I always present it at checkout.

The clerks always say “merci” and scan it, and I feel that doing so may obfuscate slightly the obvious fact that I am an American.

That obfuscation is seriously impacted by the fact that my Visa chip card (which has a PIN) works just like an old fashioned mag stripe card: I have to sign; I don’t enter a PIN like everybody else, so everybody in line that cares about such things knows that I “am not from around here”.

But, I feel, a little obfuscation is better than none.

Other than flashing the thing in obfuscation  when I check out I have never seen any manifestation of anything that it  might do for me.

There obviously is, I knew, a web site, which, if I were to go to it and register with it might reveal some deeper purpose to the thing, but that – until this trip – has always seemed to be more irritation than I wanted to sign up for.

But there has been a change: a few weeks ago, intermittently, checkout has produced not only receipts but also a running tote slip of a “Fidélité Credit” that, each time it has appeared has been larger by several centimes.

When I first started paying attention to this the amount apparently due to me was in excess of three euros; “that’s real money” I heard someone say; it was me.

But even that stimulus didn’t move me to action: I get slips like that at Safeway in the US which I never pay any attention to because they invariably are great deals on things that I never buy; even though money is clearly on offer in some manner from Carrefour, I have chosen to treat those slips the same way I do the Safeway ones.

That worked well until one day I realized the clerk was telling me to do something about my credit.

Since whatever she was saying was way beyond my ability to hear French I just gave a Gallic (I hope) wave and said “Je ne sais pas” which I hoped would identify me as being above such things.

I don’t know if it did but the clerk and I parted friends with a mutual “bonne journée” and a smile.

The plot has thickened more recently.

A few days ago I was checking out and the “you have a credit” issue arose again between me and the clerk.

This time however there was another person there; she was a take charge sort of woman and immediately ascertained that she needed to explain things to me in English, the upshot of which was “you have a credit and need to enter your four digit Carrefour PIN”.

I explained that I didn’t know the PIN.

“Come with me to the office” said she.

“I really don’t care about the credit said I”.

(I was imagining something similar to the hoorah that had gotten me the card in the first place, back in 2010; I had visions of lines of Parisians showing their fangs in annoyance as I came up short on whatever the office was going to want from me; the line I was in was at the back of the store adjacent to a back door in and out; it is a single line serviced by one to four clerks - there are usually more clerks in the early morning when there aren’t many shoppers; the service desk is at the front of the store where there are multiple lines each serviced by a single clerk; the sociological complexity of the front area always causes me to have a psychotic reaction, dating back over years and nightmare occurrences in that area of the store. I have an extreme preference for that back line.)

After a couple of times around that same confrontational bush the nice lady shrugged and went elsewhere.

I made haste back to my apartment.

But now I was curious: could I figure out how to register with the web site and would that reveal to me the magic code?

It was surprisingly easy; and I got a five digit code in the process.

The next day when I was again at Carrefour checking out – in the backdoor line - I asked if I entered the code on the credit card reader’s keypad.


The display on the credit card reader said some thing about “la code” which I thought probably meant to key in my new secret code.

I did; it didn’t work; I didn’t expect it to work because it was five digits.

Now I was in the middle of wanting to win this battle with my Carrefour credit and my unknown PIN.

So I went to the service desk.

There a very nice man took me to the middle of one of the fully populated checkout lines that are there in co-residency with the service desk, and stopped the clerk from her checkout activity – a low growl arose from the assembled multitude – and said some things to her; and she said to me that it was important that I know that code and to know it I would need to come back and ask for help at the service desk when it was occupied; she noted that it was currently not occupied; I chose not to point out that that was because the occupant of the service desk was standing next to her, and I left saying to myself that I would return early some morning before most Parisians hit the streets and would see if the service desk was occupied.

Which I did the next morning.

The woman at the service desk was keying credit slips, just like the ones I was now on a quest trying to figure out how to redeem, into the Carrefour system from her Lenovo keyboard and display.

She ignored me which was OK because starting from the time I turned forty I have become increasingly accustomed to being invisible.

I knew better than to clear my throat or say “pardon, madame” or anything.

I knew that the rules of engagement with French service apparatuses require silence until one is recognized by the apparatus.

So I stood there mute.

Finally the woman finished and without looking at me she came through the space that I would have sworn I had effectively blocked from an event such as that and disappeared into the inner part of the store never to return.

I think she knew how to re-arrange atomic structures.

This morning I went back and tried again.

There was a woman who appeared to be occupying what I would have assumed to be the service desk commander position talking to a man immediately at her side.

It was a serious and intense discussion.

I had visions of it being terminated with the woman taking matter defying egress through the space I was occupying just as had her colleague the day before.

But she finally finished and acknowledged me.

After the necessary request to speak in English and some keying I had a brand new four digit Carrefour PIN.

I was elated.

I went back to shopping and went to check out; this was going to be great; I knew my FOUR DIGIT PIN.

The clerk didn’t mention anything except what I owed.

I had hoped her to say something about a reward or a PIN or a code or something.

She said none of those but waited for me to pay.

I asked something about entering the code and I thought she said “oui”.

So I stared at the display on the credit card machine waiting for it to ask me to enter my code which it had done that other time previously.

I finally put the chip card in, signed and showed her the reward tote sheet that now had appeared with the multiple receipts.

She said something about Carte Bleu; I signed where requested; I didn’t get to redeem the Carrefour credit; I am back where I had started but I now have a PIN.

I am waiting to pounce next time anybody asks me to enter my code.

I hope I can remember it.

I really want that money.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Lowering Gray Day In Paris; But Beautiful Notwithstanding

Today I just screwed around with computer stuff until shower time, had no breakfast, and then, after that shower, when the time came to leave, took off on a walk designed to use two hours and terminate at Le Depart Saint Michel for lunch.

First I headed down rue Guénégaud to rue de Seine and up a rue whose name I never can remember but that leads to my ATMs of choice on Boulevard Saint Germain.

The exchange rate dropped so low day before yesterday that I decided it was time to take advantage of it.

On the way I encountered a definite indicator of the upscale nature of my quartier.

paris 2016 tesla at the pump 121816 00000

The next thing that moved me and my shutter was down on the river level quai.

I have looked at this tree for years; today I decided to take its picture.

paris 2016 tree on the quai 121816 00000

Pont de la Concorde caused shutter twitch next.

paris 2016 under pont de la concorde 121816 00000

Then la tour bracketed was just too good to pass up.

paris 2016 tour eiffel through the gold lions 121816 00000

A little later there was a nice jumble of cotoneaster; I like cotoneaster.

paris 2016 cotoneaster on the quai  121816 00000

Down a way I decided to walk over to le Petit Palais and get a picture of Sir Winston; I haven’t taken his picture for a couple of years or more.

paris 2016 sir winston 121816 00000

I kept on to Pont de l’Alma where I crossed back across the river to start back toward Le Depart and lunch; I was getting quite hungry, having forgone any breakfast.

When I got to Les Berges some birds jumped up and demanded to have their pictures taken.

paris 2016 merle noire at les berges 121816 00000

paris 2016 merle noire at les berges 121816 00001

And just outside of the barge that I was on was a green headed kibitzer.

paris 2016 mallard duck watching at les berges 121816 00000

And then I kept going at a high rate of speed to Le Depart Saint Michel.

paris 2016 at le depart st michel 121816 00000

Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Slightly Different Approach

From sun up today it was absolutely beautiful.

That caused me to come up with a new idea: don’t go get bread; don’t have petite dejeuner in; don’t shower; don’t screw around in the apartment until 1200 or 1300.

Just get out on the street and see if there are any images lurking that you haven’t taken before.

The back drop for this is that for the last several days I have taken almost no pictures; that has never happened before.

So I bought a croissant for road fuel and headed out on the down the Seine to Pont Austerlitz and across to le arsenal de Paris and up to La Bastille then to the stairs leading up to La Promenade Plantée.

And then to Bois de Vincennes and then decide what to do.

The idea was to see if the light at that time of the day would inspire some new pictures.

It did.

The idea also was that I would be pretty hungry by 1500 when I got back to my part of town and I could justify bacchanal for lunch somewhere.

It did.

Almost immediately as I got down on the river, the downstream tip of Isle de La Cité looked like an image.

paris 2016 downstream end of isle de la cite 121416 00000

Then as I continued up river a bunch jumped out and got caught.

paris 2016 pont neuf at noon 121416 00000

paris 2016 pont neuf at noon 121416 00001

paris 2016 under pont st michel 121416 00000

paris 2016 notre dame from under pont st michel 121416 00000

paris 2016 graphic under pont st michel 121416 00000

Then I got down the quai toward the cop dock.

paris 2016 landscape scene on le seine 121416 00000

And the sun spoke to me next.

paris 2016 sun in the greenery 121416 00000

After crossing Pont de Austerlitz and getting past Opera de Bastille and getting up on la Promenade I only took one picture.

paris 2016 rose on la promenade plantée 121416 00000


And at Porte Dorée the gold guy through the trees caught my attention.

paris 2016 the gold guy at porte dorée 121416 00000

And the boeuf bourguignon at La Frégate was absolutely delicious.

I was too busy eating it to take a picture, but suffice it to say, it was replete with lardons.

I really like lardons

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Not Much Today

I walked from the apartment down the Seine to Pont d’Iéna and back down to Pont du Carousel and then back to Pont Royal (yeah, walking in circles, looking for pictures) and a really late lunch at la Frégate.

I didn’t see much to take pictures of.

But I noticed a fairly permanent looking homeless site under Pont de l’Alma that seemed worth taking an image of.

paris 2016 homeless camp under pont de l'Alma 121316 00000

And there were six games going on Pont d'Iéna.

paris 2016 shell game on pont d'iena 121316 00000

And I thought this was a pretty pretty boat.

paris 2016 pretty boat on la seine 121316 00000

And while eating my onion soup and drinking my grande verre de côte de Rhone at La Frégate I posted the following on Facebook:

“I am at La Frégate having a late lunch.

A while ago a woman came in and was escorted to a table directly opposite me.

As she was seated I had a twinge of recognition.

She was affecting – but didn’t really look like - Sarah Palin.

So of course I watched her like a hawk.

The upshot of that surveillance has been, she came in with her own bottle of water, and as it developed, her own sandwich.

She did order a cup of coffee.

Maybe it was Sarah, after all.”

Monday, December 12, 2016

Book Ends To The Day: Notre Dame

When I went out for bread this morning I was amazed to discover that it was calm, not frigid, and blue-sky-sunny; it was beautiful.

That’s not what The Weather Channel that I had been consulting on-line in the apartment had been saying was happening.

But there have been a lot of other weather reality disparities of that sort already in this sojourn, so I just chalked this disparity up to information lag time.

But I also set my day’s walking agenda based on real time go-for-bread-out-on-rue-de Bucci information.

I decided to walk the Promenade Plantee to Bois Vincennes and then come back on Avenue Daumesnil which parallels the Promenade.

I have never walked back from that route down Daumesnil; I always take the Metro back – to Le Depart.

Today it seemed that I wanted to walk as much of the daylight hours as was possible; the weather, after all, was good.

That walk would be about four hours I thought.

Unlike yesterday, I had some things that moved me to take images early in the traverse.

As soon as I took the steps down to river level I began to feel images is the offing.

First was Notre Dame - what a surprise.

paris 2016 notre dame again 121116 00000

Then there was a boat.

paris 2016 bateau au Seine 121116 00000

At Bastille I did the best I could with the gold guy up on top: the sun was on his ass, so I took the picture from that angle.

paris 2016 statue at la bastille 121116 00000

And after I got up on the promenade I got a good picture of a female Merle Noire eating holly berries.

paris 2016 female merle noire 121116 00000

I didn’t take any more images until much later in the day when I was coming back on Avenue Daumesnil and looked up at the sky; “amazing”, I said to no one in particular.


And then as I got to the back end, back down the river level quai toward home, the lady, our lady, Notre Dame, looked pretty good in the westering sun.

paris 2016 notre dame again 121116 00001