Of Movies and La Guillotine

Another fine day of cold rain in Paris, the so-called City of Light. It's Sunday, and what with this weather, the natives and tourists alike are hunkered down. I idled the morning away reading Bring Up The Bodies, the latest Hilary Mantel novel about Henry the Eighth and the Tudors (an excellent read, by the way).

To counter-balance all that English history, I hopped the rails to Montparnasse to catch a noon showing of Taken 2, with Liam Neeson. The last time I went to a film in Paris was so long ago that smoking was still allowed in the auditorium and salesgirls circulated up and down the aisles selling Marlboro's and candy. There are a surprising number of American films shown here with the original dialog and French subtitles, which can make for a fun French lesson.

No salesgirls this time, though, nor any smoking. About 200 seats, and no house lights, either. Before the obligatory 15-minutes of commercials and previews, a bright white line shines on the entire movie screen and the “bounce” from that serves as enough light to see yourself into a seat. Good luck, though, if you drop anything. No ushers or staff in evidence. The seats were a bit unusual: they folded up as ours do, but the seat cushion was so long that, when folded up on either side of you, they actually constrain your arm movement. Squeaky, too. The movie's a sequel, filled with the predictable tough guy posturing, absurd events, and plenty o' violence; I give it a C+. Suitable diverson if you want to put your mind on hold for few hours. Not for kids, of course.

Incidentally, I was surprised to see that the Montparnasse area I was in was home to eight multi-screen cinemas (maybe more), all within blocks of each other. No fear of competition, I guess, and a totally different retail location strategy than that used in the States.

Switching now from one Mont- to another, I've inserted a couple of photos here, from yesterday's hike around Montmartre. It's not too much to look at now, but Au Lapin Agile (The Nimble Rabbit) is a famous Montmartre cabaret. At the turn of the 20th century, it was a hangout for artists and writers, including Piccaso, Modigliani, and Urillo. It was also popular with pimps, eccentrics, down-and-outers, local anarchists, students, and the occasional slumming bourgeois. I've never been, but the tables inside are said to have decades of intials, some famous, carved in them.

Across the street from it is one of those pocket vineyards I mentioned earlier. This one belongs to Le Chat Noir (The Black Cat) winery and had in its midst a neat hut of woven, red vine leaves. No entry as allowed, so I couldn't say what the significance, if any, was. Perhaps that's where they hawk logo'd tee shirts and cork screws when the place is open? Tap or click any photo to see a larger image.

I guess these pictures give you an idea, at least, of how gray it's been for the last two days. Seems like it's been a colder, wetter trip so far than in previous years.

During breakfast at Le Circle this morning, over my croissant and tea, I watched people passing by in the rain. It was raining, not drizzling, but 50% of everyone passing had no umbrella. Now, umbrellas are available for sale, especially when it's been raining, at the door of almost every shop and even the street hustlers are standing at Metro exits selling them.

This lack of interest in staying dry seemed to range across class, nationality, and gender. There were even couples out there, with her under an umbrella and her manly man braving it without one (though he could have been under the umbrella with her). Is it a City Person thing? Poor control of personal belongings? Laziness? I find it to be extraordinary behavior.

For a late lunch, I took the Metro and RER back to the Luxembourg Gardens and went to the nearby La Gueuze pub. This warm and welcoming place has a nice staff that handles everyone, including rowdy students and clueless tourists, with aplomb. I had poulet roti pommes frites (roast chicken with fries), which was also warm and welcome, and two pints of… La Guillotine, a Belgian strong pale ale, coming in around 8.5% ABV.

I was hoping for some Maredsous, another Belgian, but they rotate their feature drafts and so I was introduced to the “decapitator”, as the waiter called it. Well, it was tasty and smooth, really didn't seem that strong, and I didn't loose my head over it. Given the locale, the name just seems funny.

With lunch finished, before retiring to my hotel to hit the keyboard, I stopped by the Amaroni shop and made a final salute to Venice by having a small gelati cone. Let's see what tomorrow, my final day in Paris, brings.


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