Who would have known that getting online would be more difficult in Paris than in Zurich or Tokyo? Well, okay, anything technological should be more difficult outside of Tokyo. But actually, the problem is not that my charming French Hotel backwards and out of date, but that it is nominally extremely convenient--every room has an ethernet cable. The one in mine just happens not to work. But of course, with every room wired, there is much less incentive to have a kiosk in the lobby, so with a broken outlet, I have no alternative. The wacky economics of technology.
Paris doesn't feel that old, especially after all the time I spent in the compact, windy streets of the old City of Zurich. Admittedly I'm staying in the outer 13e Arrondissment, near the famed Les Gobelins tapestry factory, and my concierge says most of the buildings date from the late 19th century. We've been told to spend time walking around, but after Manhattan this strikes me as a very car friendly city. We gave into a taxi ride to and from the Eiffel Tower yesterday, and got some magnificent views from the backseat, and gorgeous music from the front. Surprisingly , I seemed to earn points with one driver when I exclaimed that I had a particular Cheb Mami song in my collection of home and am quite a fan. You'd think the driver would be used to tourist fans. He carefully repated over and over again the station number, but without a radio to tune in with it now escapes me.
I haven't been to the ancient heart at the Ile de la Cite yet, but all across the huge wide boulevards Eric informs me were blasted open in the 19th century to make them less vulnerable to revolutionary mob blockades, and more tractable for artillery-bearing guards. The people seem more interested in horrifying their leadership with votes now--if I didn't have the BBC on at night I'd have had little sense on Sunday of the magnitude of the No vote on the European constitution. On Saturday when we got here we saw people campaigning in the streets, mostly for no, some for yes (somewhere tucked in a pocket I have what I think is a sheet of yes Cartoons, though they might be sarcastic). Not many more campaigners than you might find petitioners on a random day in Berkeley, though.
One thing that reminded me of Berkeley also was seeing Rue Jeanne-D'Arc repaved, with stacks and stacks and stacks of huge blocks of cut and polished granite waiting to go in. The granite's a bit different than the Sierra granite I'm used to, and also, I think, different than the granite that Columbia University's built of. It's kind of amazing that the French still insist on using stone everywhere, I suppose the Alps provide an endless supply.
A couple of random notes. Does anyone with regular access to BBC World think that correspondent Jeremy Howell, whom I watched interview some kind of Dubai businessman on a Middle East magazine show, is either channeling or aping Rob Cordry of the Daily Show? He's got the weird slanty eyebrow motions and the jerky nodding that's characteristic of Corddry's wacky mock-interviews. It was disconcerting to see it in a serious context. Also, if our best alternative for reformed healthcare is the French Medical System
, I say, bring it on!