Monday, August 08, 2016

Lots of good chemistry here . . . .

August 8, 2016 -- Hotel occupancy rates in Paris are half of what they were last year, according to an article published yesterday in the British newspaper, The Telegraph.  The article states that, “Jean-Pierre Nadir of the travel website Easyvoyage said terrorism was not the only factor discouraging foreign visitors.”  Mr. Nadir said that the strikes in June and July were also factors.

Those strikes involved taxi drivers, labor unions, refuse collectors, and airline and railroad workers.  I know I was worried about those – especially Air France pilot strikes – when we were originally scheduled to travel here in late June.  Tom and I were negatively affected by an AF pilot strike two summers ago.  We didn’t want to go through that again!

The strikers announce their strikes in advance; the terrorists do not.
Sunset on August 5, as seen from our balcony.
Oh, we tried our darnedest to get here this year, but we were delayed by a month.  The strikes didn’t deter us; neither did terrorism.  We struggled with medical adventures and such, and finally we made it.  Better late than never.

We do notice the reduction in numbers of foreign tourists.  Now it is easier to spot French tourists who have come into the city from the provinces to enjoy all that the capitol has to offer.  Now it is also more apparent how many people in Paris are wearing traditional Muslim attire.  Without such huge masses of American, Japanese, and Chinese tourists, it is simply easier to notice everyone else.
If the first few days are any indication, I think people are being nicer than ever to us.  The judge who lives three floors below us stopped to chat with us at the elevator, to make us feel welcome.  That’s the first time she has done so in the 18 years we’ve been summering here.  Shopkeepers and cashiers are especially kind, too.  Maybe everyone is being nicer to everyone else now.  What the world needs now, is love, sweet love . . . .
Native American woman braids a young woman's hair as
her mother watches, at the 7th arrondissement's fair on
the Champ de Mars.

On the second evening we were in Paris, nature treated us to a fabulous sunset sky.  Yesterday, nature gave us lots of sun and warm temperatures (low 80s F), so we walked down to the great park André Citroën.  The park was crammed with locals – including lots of families with lots of kids -- enjoying abundant sunny and shady spots on the esplanade and in the gardens and woods.  The hot air balloon was operating, giving a birdseye view of it all to anyone who wanted to buy a ticket.

Our dinner reservation was at Le Tipaza, on the rue Saint Charles, not far from the park.  We were welcomed by three gentlemen at the door.  Apparently, they remember my favorable reviews from last summer.

The dinner met and exceeded our expectations at this place featuring North African cuisine.  The grilled meats were as good as ever, but the vegetables also amazed us this time – from the kemia mis-en-bouche to the Berber salad to the amazing ratatouille.  I do love restaurants that pay attention to the vegetables (instead of treating them like a forgettable garnish).

My reaction to the ratatouille was like that of the restaurant critic in the movie Ratatouille -- remember when he tastes it, and the flavor transports him back in time, to the memory of his mother's incomparable ratatouille?

Yes, it was THAT good!  (No my mother did not make ratatouille; but you get the idea!)
The Maison de la Chimie, 28 rue Saint-Dominique, 7th arrondissement

Speaking of kemia (the assorted marinated vegetable hors d’oeuvres served with drinks at the beginning of a North African dinner), I now realize that kemia is also the word for “chemistry” in a number of languages.

On Saturday’s walk home, we had paused in front of the Maison de la Chimie (Chemistry House) in the 7th arrondissement.  This institution is located in what was once a very stately home, and it has recently been renovated.  Its broad, bright, clean, and restored stone façade is now decorated with banners extolling the importance of the science of Chemistry. 
Left end of the Maison de la Chimie

I love that about the French: generally they are NOT anti-intellectuals, and they believe in science.  Whereas an intellectual has nary a chance of being elected to higher office in the U.S. (our current President being the exception), in France, that happens frequently.  Politicians here even publish poetry, and they aren’t ridiculed for it (unless it is really bad poetry).

The Maison is actually a conference center, run by its own foundation/nonprofit organization.  Its primary purpose is to help scientists and engineers working in the chemistry world, but because of its location so close to the National Assembly, many other kinds of important functions and gatherings are held there as well.

The Maison de la Chimie is perhaps the most beautiful example of a stately home being used for an institutional purpose in the 7th arrondissement, but there are so many fine examples . . . .
Right end of the Maison de la Chimie.

Today, we’re falling into the routine that we have in the summer; Tom is working on the next edition of The Norton Sampler, and I’m blogging, as you can tell (after having extended our wireless network in the apartment).  I’ll probably go out walking and doing errands this afternoon, and in the evening, Tom and I will go for a walk together, and will dine who knows where?  On va voir.

1 comment:

MM Merryfield said...

I guess I had the impression most Algerian and other Arab immigrants from North Africa live in the suburbs. Do some of them live in the area where you are staying?

Do you see many people who likely came from SE Asia?

If you compare Paris to NYC, do you see differences or more similarities in how different cultures and religions chose to stay apart or live together?