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Paris Positioning and Timing are Everything

Timing is everything.

Monday May Day (Labor Day in France) I instigated a picnic at the Place des Vosges for a few friends. When the temperature had dropped and the gray, rainy skies wouldn’t let up, question marks formed on our brows, but we weren’t daunted. The basket got packed anyway with assorted goodies, bottles of wine, a big sheet to lay on the ground and I grabbed the biggest umbrella I could find.

Surprisingly, a die-hard group of toughies turned up baring home-made guacamole, spicy Thai noodles, leek quiche, salad, fresh strawberries and lots of different things to drink. A polite woman gendarme shooed us off the northwest quadrant of the place where they are trying to grow fresh grass, but we found respite under the thick newly leafed trees where the rain could be felt only where there were “holes.”

The insanity and hilarity of it all while we became damper and colder by the moment made for a good laugh and a good story. One person later wrote in a thank you note typical of Southern gentleman (an excerpt):

What did I learn?
You can have picnics in the rain.
You can have picnics standing, sitting on benches and laying on wet ground.
Straight men make good guacamole.
“Lagniappe” is a baker’s dozen.
How to work a wine cork in reverse.
So, see. It was not only fun, but it was an education.

Position is everything.

The next day, I had a very kind of different picnic. Blue skies and warm air resulted from Monday’s misery. Francophile friends with a rental apartment on the edge of the Champ de Mars overlooking the Eiffel Tower couldn’t wait to show off their fabulous view. From the living room windows, you could almost touch the ironwork, with only the narrow strip of gardens blocking your reach. By amazing fortune, they discovered another elegant apartment in the same building with the same great prospective available for sale.

I’ve always said, I’d rather be lucky than smart. When luck affords you the opportunity, you simply have to be smart enough to recognize it and seize it. So you can guess their immediate reaction: “Yes! Where do I sign?”

The glorious day had throngs of visitors to the Eiffel Tower. As we crossed under the Grand Dame’s arches, we had to snake through the lines of tourists waiting for the elevators heading to the top to see Paris from the perfect position. On route to an outdoor lunch under the sun at Café de l’Alma, we passed behind the new Musée du Quai Branly currently under construction.

Scheduled for completion later this year, the Musée du Quai Branly will be dedicated to arts and civilizations from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas housing and displaying 240,000 objects from the Ethnological Laboratory of Musée de l’Homme and 25,000 objects from Musée National des Arts d’Afrique. President Jacques Chirac established the commission to establish the museum and architect Jean Nouvel designed the building to be set among trees in an extensive garden designed by Gilles Clément to include 15,000 plants of 150 different species, on a vertical surface of 800 m². For more information (in English, French and Spanish) visit the Museum’s official Web site: http://www.quaibranly.fr

The sultry air and blue skies held tight all day and throughout the evening when everyone, absolutely everyone, was drinking and dining at outdoor cafés and restaurants. From a café overlooking Place Colette, with La Comédie Française and the bejeweled Métro entrance as backdrops, we dipped into ice cream and sipped one last cup of co

ffee. We could not help but admire the beauty of the city before us, the soft glow of the street lamps warming the stones, and I was reminded of what bad timing to have planned a picnic the day before, but how well positioned we were to enjoy it all.

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. Get Practical Answers from Jean Taquet’s Q’s and A’s. Visit /parlerparis/practicalanswers.html for May’s column.

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