October 29, 2011
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Back to the Future.
Click on any photo to see it enlarged. It will appear as part of a slide show of all photos on this page. The image size can be changed by clicking on the plus and minus buttons. In the upper-left corner of a slide show click on either of the small-blue triangles to see another album (sets of photos). One of the albums is of us in Rome (and some of our food). Two more show us in Florence in January-February and us in Florence in March-April.
It's gone from high summer to almost winter in the three months that we've been in France. We left Italy on July 25 for five days in Lyon and then went on, on July 30 to Paris. When we arrived the days were very long with sunset after 10:00 p.m. and sunrise around 6:00 a.m. We often slept in just pajamas with no blankets. In our first weeks we were out at least once a week and often twice to have a picnic lunch in the park. We used that as a means to get familiar with new parts of the city. Now we're halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice. Paris in the morning can be down to 4C (40F) and the afternoon sometimes doesn't get above 16C (59F). But things are about to be reversed: in a few days we'll fly 1/3 of the way from here to the equator; but more of that at the end of this posting.
We arrived in Paris to be greeted by Veronica. We were taking her apartment for the sixth time while she went off for weeks of walking in Portugal, Spain and France, preceded and followed by some volunteer work in Cahors, France. It was great to see her again, even if it had been a comparatively short period since we saw her in Italy. Before she left Ann arrived and for one night there were four of us here. Ann, an old friend of Jan's from Bradford had worked with Veronica some years in Paris and had been the one to introduce us. So it was quite a home coming and, incidentally, a chance to share a traditional rich Parisian “petit dejuner”. Bad for the waistline but good for the spirit.
Once Veronica was off to Portugal and Ann headed back to New York we started to reform our ways and reshape our waistlines. We got serious about being on a diet. Being serious wasn't so hard because we both wanted to do it. The pounds and kilos (and almost stones) and inches and decimeters had been accumulating for too many years. For example, at a medical check-up in Bangkok the Thai doctor said to Gerry – straight forward – you are too fat. Gerry protested that he hadn't put on weight and the doctor replied that he'd replaced muscle by fat. So true. At last, three months ago, we were doing something about it. At first it was hard and later it was still hard, but it became a habit to lose weight. Every morning we checked the scales and most mornings we saw some progress. When we retrogressed it was hard. But, if we haven't made it in the sense of getting to our goals, we've gone a long way. We're used to eating less and our clothes hang on us a bit instead of bulging.
The two big months in France for vacations are July and August. The TV is filled each weekend with how many hundreds of kilometers of backup there are on the vacation routes. We arrived in France in the middle of this period and were awaiting the end of the vacation period (called “la rentrée”) because that is when the intellectual life come alive again. Before about September 1 there is hardly a talk or event to attend; after there is an embarrassment of riches.
One of the first talks we went to was at the Memorial to the Shoah (http://www.memorialdelashoah.org/)
For most of the time we've been here it has been primary season for the Socialist party. We are afficionados of political debate so we felt very lucky to be here. Early on we got to attend a campaign event of François Hollande, who went on to win the primary. It was held in a small theater that was filled to its legal limit and maybe beyond. We're glad we got to see it first hand but almost walked out because of the heat. Hollande himself is no great orator so we weren't rewarded that way either.
The last and only Socialist president under de Gaulle's Fifth Republic was François Mitterrand, who served 1981-1995. Since then the Socialists have gotten hungrier and hungrier for electoral success. Now, with Nicolas Sarkozy, the sitting president ever more unpopular here than Obama is in the USA, the Socialists smell success. During their primary they all promised to not say anything bad about each other so that it couldn't be used against them in the general campaign, which ends with next May's election.
More than a month after the Hollande meeting we went to another, much smaller one. Like the first, we learned about it from a small flyer pasted to a wall someplace. In fact, it was at the last minute: Gerry saw it and called Jan to come meet him. It was what they called a “debate” in support of the far-left candidate Melenchon. (http://www.jean-luc-melenchon.fr/) He was being interviewed on TV that night; we, the public, were invited to a small bar to watch the TV and then discuss the interviews among ourselves. We knew that we had no chance of agreeing with anything said; unlike Hollande and the Socialist Party, which have given up socialism Melenchon and his party, Gauche Radical (Radical Left), want the government to take over everything. On TV Melenchon preached for erecting trade barriers, making it illegal for companies to fire workers, lowering retirement age to 60, raising the minimum wage to over $2400/month (about $15/hr) , etc. The crowd in Cafe 13 was pretty much in agreement.