Just Above Sunset
September 5, 2004 - The more things change, the more they... the Chinese arrive soon?

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Ric, our man in Paris, ponders (without being ponderous)- "It occurred to me that I should write these Paris things as if they were to somebody who used to live here, a long time ago. As in – "


'Dear Louis'


Even though you've been away a long time you would probably still recognize your old home in Versailles. The latest regime keeps it fixed up, but of course to suit this chintzy age we live in, they pay the rent by letting hordes of clodhopping Republicans traipse through the gilt rooms, gawking at all that tasteful decor you had done - or rather, your grandfather, Big Louis. Postcard sales alone pay for the upkeep of the fountains.


It's really too bad Versailles is so far out of town. Your other palace, the Louvre, does pretty well these days functioning as a mall of a museum. It's got so much neat stuff in it that a whole wad of modern stuff done after your time was shipped across the Seine to a train station, and turned into the Musée d'Orsay, which is a smaller mall but a mall all the same.


But the main thing to remember, as you while your time away in exile, is that not much here has changed. The Republicans who offed your head adopted your regime, then had the place run by a short dictator for a while, then by a couple of your relatives again. The Republicans only really got a hold of the show after about 100 years, but now more than 200 years later, your old regime is still very much in place, except we call 'le Roi' Monsieur Président now.


You know what they say about things staying the same no matter how much they change. We even have a new, short, dictator waiting in the wings for his turn on stage. He's not as smart as the first one, and the people who may vote for him seem to be dumber than in your times too. It may not make a lot of sense but it can be pretty exciting at times. The Chinese will appreciate this aspect when they turn up here in big numbers next year.


Oh, I didn't write to you about this? The Red Chinese regime now issues visas for foreign travel and the Paris tourist conglomo thinks a couple of million of them will be pouring through here as early as 2006. They are beating the bushes for Chinese speakers to act as guides. Luckily Paris has a Chinatown full of Indochinese who would like to make more than they do by working in underground sweatshops, or working as waiters in faux-Chinese restaurants. The department store Printemps just hired 15 Chinese speakers to guide these new tourists to the high-end trinket departments. They were trying all of this out on a bunch of Chinese passing through on their way home from Athens.


I've heard that finding good Chinese food in China isn't easy; but Chinese food here compares very well with what's on offer in New York. Just imagine - your former country will become a magnet for lovers of Chinese-style French food. The Americans, bless 'em, would be furious if they knew they were about to lose the noddle and rice race. It's astonishing how able your former countrymen are at adapting to changing times, without changing hardly at all.


As again, as we used to say at Versailles - 'boule-boule!'


- Regardez-toi!


Ric says not much has changed….

Click here for larger image....
Photo AP June 2000

Right, an example…


Jardins du Luxembourg - These formal gardens over on the Left Bank still have all the statues (including one of Sainte-Gèneviève, patron saint of Paris), and you get your fountains and flowers.  And in the southwest corner you’ll find an orchard with several hundred species of apple and pear trees – and these blossom each spring.  For the children it has its parc à jeux (playground) and the théâtre des marionettes (puppet theater); and your kids can rent toy boats and sail them in the big round pond.  Sunday afternoons in the summer you have your band concerts, and you get chess players, students reading, a game of boules now and then, and pretty girls.  Same old same old….

Click here for largere image
Photo AP June 2000

And the Luxembourg Palace smack in the middle is still there.  It was commissioned in 1615 by Marie de Médicis, then regent of France, for a site on the Left Bank occupied at the time by the Hôtel du Luxembourg – thus the name.  Marie is no longer around.  The palace is still there.  Note, Marie really, really wanted an Italianate structure modeled after Palazzo Pitti in Florence.  You know, a little bit of home.  But the architect of the place, one Salomon de Brosse, followed a typically French layout of wings surrounding a court, with the chief living quarters and chapel facing the garden.  Oh well.  It will do.

And do visit Ric’s site at MetropoleParis.


Copyright © 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
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