Just Above Sunset
August 22, 2004 - Ric Erickson's Report from Paris

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A preview of Ric Erickson’s new column.  These columns will, if all goes according to plan, be syndicated in a number of publications and on websites.  Here Ric offers the readers of Just Above Sunset the first of these – a prototype, as it were.


Ric explains his aims -


Interpreting the relationships between America and Europe, between their colliding politics, histories and cultures, is complicated – sometimes needlessly complicated or befuddled by politicians and popular analyses.


America's exceptionalism was defined by the Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1830s, when he found much to praise. Today as then, the two-way relationship is governed by jealousy and grudging admiration, mistrust, and a slightly ignorant familiarity. America isn't Disneyland and Europe isn't the Louvre.


The present of America may be the future of Europe, but it is less than obvious why many Europeans seem to resist it. Europeans, with a jumble of languages, a multitude of regions and entrenched local habits fight a war against being rendered into a supranational stew – where one globalized marketing size fits all.


Is it a coordinated counter–attack? Or is it a futile last stand?


Is 'old' Europe, with most of its traditions intact, worth saving?


Is there more at stake here than profit?


In Europe politicians wrestle with this question because it is the fundamental pivot, the sign where the road to the future forks. But while politicians wrestle, many Europeans make up their own minds and put their thoughts into actions.


the Life is about the skirmishes in the battle for the future. The true goals are in dispute, the outcome is doubtful, and all means, fair and foul, are permissible.




The column -



Beach On the Cheap by Ric Erickson


Paris, in August: - On the Riviera, restaurateurs and the boys running the pay-to-lay beaches are moaning about the lack of big spenders or even little spenders. Normally, rooms and sand are fully booked by grilling sardines sporting solid platinum.


Nobody, in August at least, is supposed to be in Paris. Nobody other than a few million dogged tourists from America, England, Germany, the far east, and from cool spots south of the Equator. And too, with Paris being so expensive, not all that many residents can afford the Mediterranean delights of the Côte d'Azur.


Three years ago, to remedy the situation, Paris' city hall imagined a fake beach beside the Seine in the middle of the city. It's the kind of idea that could have gurgled up at an expense account three-hour lunch with local wine.

Actual size...

Sand, deckchairs and parasols were dumped on the city's closed right-bank riverside expressway. Although fake, and with no swimming allowed, the beach was a big success. I got to tell to early morning traffic radio listeners in Japan about it.


It was also free. Paris is compact, so you can walk to it. If it's too far for the kids, the Métro is cheaper than a Riviera taxi. Parisians came, tourists came, beach ball was played in front of the city hall and folks hung around the fake beach all day and well into the night, catching performances.


Parisians aren't dumb. Some said the money the fake beach costs would be better spent on - on kindergartens. But in the second year of operation the city recycled a lot of its initial equipment and got sponsors to offer goods or services. The city added a lot more sand, and the new fog sprays were a cooling sensation during the August heatwave.


Now in its third year, being copied by Milan, Berlin, Brussels, Budapest and Tokyo, Paris' fake beach is back, is still about 3,600 yards long and is still free. Experience showed that the sand, 2000 new tons of it, won't stay put, so more fake but real grass has been added, with more lounging spots sprinkled all over.


This year's new feature is the neat swimming pool - a temporary one, until the city can drop a couple of big floating ones into the Seine. Although not a French custom, the old one that sank deprived Parisians of a place to be topless downtown.


Since it is paradise, there may be trouble. For the first two seasons it was possible to bike or roller-skate, or push a pram, along the beach. This year, after only half the season, the city estimates that two million beach fans have flopped on their towels, strolled, lounged, beach-balled, wall climbed, bowled, listened to music - on 'Paris Plage.'


Matthew Rose, visiting from Port Washington, Long Island, said, "It makes me feel at home, the sand, but the waves aren't much." Eric Naudan, under a parasol, running the beach terrace for the permanent cafe Le Corona, wearily said, "It's hot, it's hot." When the river's breezes cease the quay is like a sun reflector.


Workers manning beach attractions say that arriving before ten is the only way to get a lounge spot. Parisians are coming day after day, some to pose for TV-news crews from CNN and the BBC.


Motorists who refuse to drive elsewhere in France in summer are not happy to be trapped in stalled traffic on the roads above the beach. Paris' summer fable of light traffic and free parking spaces remains a myth.


For those who feel that the beach is overcrowded hype, but want to be by the water, there are other accessible quays along both banks and around the two islands, and along the sides of the canals.


As the sun drops in the west over the river by the Louvre, hundreds gather on the quays of the Ile Saint Louis, to sit with picnics and wine, listening to guitars and bongos. They have a front row seat for watching the lights come on across the river, on the beach.




Copyright © 2004 – Richard Erickson


Syndication Rights

Contact Info Richard Erickson, 59 rue Froidevaux, 75014 Paris, France.

Tel. 33 1 43 27 40 43.  Email: paris.ric@wanadoo.fr


Ric is the publisher of Metropole Paris, “the weekly magazine about Paris today”  - online since 1996 at MetropoleParis



Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

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