Thursday, October 20, 2011

Marriage in Paris

Marriage in France consist of one or two ceremonies.  In any case there has to be a civil ceremny.  The civil ceremony now is referred to as the Pacte civil de Solidarite or Pac.   Originally the civil ceremony was intended only for heterosexual marriages.  The PAC now includes same sex marriages and provides for most contingencies included in marriage vows concerning property and divorce.  As a result many young, and not so young, people on both side of the sexual fence prefer the one step PAC and forget the religious ceremony.

In any case for a marriage to be recognized by the government there must be a civil ceremony.  If you want a religious one as well, that is your choice.  As the PAC simplifies the ins-and-outs of marriage, it has become a popular alternative.
I do not have wifi in the apartment and because the town hall does and the town hall for the 3rd district (arrondissement) is open Saturday mornings, I come in with my backpack with my laptop to one of the desks in the east or west wing to check my mail and read the papers.  Before I pack up to leave I hear the crowd noises of guests coming to the town hall to watch a friend or friends get married that does not due justice to the red carpet on the elegant, late 19th C staircase to the first floor where the civil ceremonies are held.

Because the bride is wearing a traditional wedding gown, we assume that following the civil ceremony the couple and their friends will caravan to the church of their choice for for the religious ceremony followed usually by a formal and extensive luncheon with lots of liquid goodies.

So far I have only seen hetero marriages with the bride outfitted appropriately in a formal  white wedding gown. Here is a bride and groom in full marriage dress crossing the bridge behind Notre Dame de Paris.  We imagine they have made the trip from Japan to Paris for the occasion although for a non-resdent to marry in France it is a little complicated.


Friday, October 7, 2011

October 7, 2011, Paris almost sparkles!

My French relations, including my wife, Colette, do not understand my fascination with the City of Paris sanitation services.  This blog will take time to develop because I hope to include pictures of the different activities. 

Our apartment is on the first floor (one floor up from the ground floor, le rez-de-chausee) (sorry, my laptop does not do accents) so we have a good view of what passes on the street.

The City of Paris sanitation services operate 7 days a week, all day and sometimes late into the night.  However, lets take it from the early morning.  About 6:15 AM the first heavy truck makes it way past our apartment and, regrettably, I do not know what it does because by the time I fall out of bed, find slippers, it has past our building.  But shortly thereafter the sidewalk crew comes by.  This is a small tank truck with a driver and on either the left-hand or right-hand side, a man with a long wand washes the sidewalk and the water sweeps dog poo, papers, leaves et al into the gutter.  He has tomake too trips, about 30 minutes apart.  I imagine he does the full length of rue de N.D. deNazareth, the makes a U-turn on Blvd. de Saint-Martin, almost a mile west, anprobably returns on Blvd Saint-Martin Meslay, the switches side of the street.

The next person is the gutter sweeper.  He, like all the saniation employees, is uniformed in a dark green coverall with a yellow vest, and a matching green broom.  In times past each neighborhood had its gutter sweeper and they were part of the scenery.  Colette's sister, chatlaine of the family chateau in a really small town in the east of France.

 (Courcelles/Aubreville/Meuse) and thus to the manor born, was vastly amused by the fact that she and the neighborhood sweeper were on daily speaking terms as she progressed down the sidewalk to market and he cleaned the gutter.  They exchanged views on the state of the world, the young people, and the problems of keeping Paris neat and tidy.

Now the gutter sweepers are rotated so it is a different one daily.  His job is to turn on the water at the fire hydrants to flood the gutters and sweep the debris into the drains. The sweeper in this picture is working at a major intersection and if you look closely you will see he has vertical cart that has a ring with a clear green plastic sack into which he is dumping items that cannot be swept into the street drainage system.

Several years ago terrorist would put hand grenade-type explosives with timers in the fixed, metal sided sidewalk trash cans.  When they exploded the trash can fragmented and the trash can pieces caused death and serious injuries to anyone nearby.  The City of Paris' Sanitation Department response was to remove the metal sidewalk trash cans and replace them with short metal posts fixed in the sidewalk with a ring at the top.  The clear green plastic sacks would reveal the presence of unwanted or threatening items plus are lightweight and easily closed, lifted out and replace.  An environmental note here, a second sack in its own ring has been added, and the clear yellow sack is labeled "Recycle."

In the courtyard of our building (now dated as 18th C) there are three types of garbage cans, one for recycle (tins, plastic, paper) one for garbage and one with a special round hole in the middle of the lid for bottles.  Disposing of bottles in Paris is schedule twice weekly and has its own truck.  The truck, like the trucks for the other two types of garbage have double lifts at the back.  They usually come by in mid-afternoon, Tuesday and, I think, Friday.  There is a driver and one helper.  The truck stops for the garbage cans on the side of the road, the driver hops out, and he takes one side of the road and the helper takes the other side.  The garbage cans always seem to be full with bottle, and they are pushed out to the truck, engaged in the lift system, the driver, I think, pushes the button and the plastic cans are lifted into the air, turned upside down, and the bottles drop into the truck.  The sound of breaking glass fills the air with it own music.

The next challenge is copy my pictures of this activity from my Microsoft Picture program however this is proving to be more of problem than I had anticipated.  The next picture will be of the public bottle disposer sites located on an attractivde corner of the Square du Temple.

Tuesday afternoons the bottle truck comes to our neighborhood.  It is exactly like the garbage truck except it pick up only the plastic cans with the special top for bottles.  The picture also illustrates what happens when a large wide truck moves slowly, with intermitent stops, up a narrow heavily travelled street.  Traffic comes to  a complete stop, and horns are honked to now avail.
This is the bird's eye view of our evening trash pickup.  The trucks have two different color schemes, one off white, the other dark and almost lime green.  The trucks are kept clean and the mean wear dark green coveralls with lime green safety jackets.  You can see the back of the truck, the green square can in the lift, and one of the team members.  Occasionally the driver will hop out and help and the team work is remarkable.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

October 2,2011, Quai de l'Archeveche

This is the other side of the Pont de l'Archeveche (pedestrians only) where the locks are beginning to accumulate!  Below is the garden of Pope Jean XXIII and the rear of the cathedral.  I cannot find the correct architectural name for the spire above the nef but below is another view.

The Ile de la Cite is part of the original Paris and this is a view of the spire above the nef (I think) thrugh a tiny passage.  Below is a patient artist - I peeked at his work and it the line drawing with a very thin black line seemed very promising.

October 2, 2011, Quai de Montebello

Notre Dame from the corner of the Quai de Montebello and the Pont (Bridge) de l'Archeveche (sorry, can't put in the accents).  The peniche (river boat) in front is permanently docked here and is a dandy place for a sit and a drink on a hot days.  Behind it you will see a bateau mouche (sightseeing boat) moving up the Seine.

This is the railing of the Pont of the Archeveche covered with locks of every size and descritption. There are two bridges in Paris where it has become the thing to do to put a lock and through away the combination or the key celebration your togetherness.  Occasionally one lock will have a piece of veil attached to it.  The other bridge is the Pont des Arts (pedestrians only) from the Place de l'Institut de France to the Louvre.

October 2,2011, Quai Saint-Michel to Notre Dame de Paris

This is 19, Quai Saint-Michel, an apartment building where Colette's father's cousin, Jean Launois and his wife, Aimee, lived.  Many other well known French artists lived here including Matisse and Marquet.  We do not know which floor he lived on and the one person I have met who did, and who knew Aimee, refused to give me the time to get the details.  In any case the view over the Seine toward Notre Dame de Paris is splendid.

 This is the view from the sidewalk across the street from the apartment building.  I think Albert Marquet painted it.

 I will try to put in the name of the bridge later, but this the bridge that crosses this arm of the Seine leading to the place before Notre Dame that is, was, crowded this warm and brilliant day with tourists, including some French!

Left Bank, October 2, 2011

The court yard of the Musee des Arts & Metiers, and the bronze casting of the original Statue of Liberty.  The Museum is worth the visitng for its exhibits relative to science.  It has the original airplane that was the first to cross the English Channel from France to England.
On the quai of the Metro station of Sebastapol-St. Denis, tourists trying to find their way.  After Chatelet the Metro tunnels under the Seine to Il de la Cite, then  Place Saint-Michel, and the escalator up to the lobby floor.  This is one of the original and deepest of the Metro stops, and is in a giant casson.  Look down th steps, across the floor to the ticket style then lift your eyes and you will see the iron plates.
This is the Place Saint-Michel, artistically not to everyone's taste.  it is the beginning of the Left Bank, the Boulevard Saint-Michel (Saint'Miche) and the Latin Quarter where the original Sorbonne is located.  This was also the site of fierce fighting for the liberation of Paris and memorial plaques are on the sides of the fountain to memorialize the fall French fighters.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Paris, October 4, 2011

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

After breakfast I pulled out the 2007 Paris yellow pages looked for Television, Arrondissement 3, and found a repair person.  First number dialed had been discontinued, and second number had an answer.  We discussed my problem and he man seemed to understand what our problem is, we fixed a time for this afternoon, cost of the house call (E35), and we hope that the situation will be resolved.

Paris Pictures

I am having trouble with my laptop, not new; it has its own priorities which do not include mine.  When I get around to mastering the art of sneaking them through the self-editing system of the lap top hopefully they will come in batches of five.

Batch 1.  Colette waiting in the main departure lounge of RDU.  It is rather nice and reasonably quiet, and CNN is not played at the maximum volume.  Already A plus.  We were boarded, seated, and on our way in fact before schedule departure time and landed in Atlanta about 20 minutes early.  Colette’s at the gate and we were on our way from Domestic Terminal B to International Departure Terminal E.  For those of you who are acquainted with the Atlanta Terminal you will understand that distances are measured possibly in miles, and almost hours, or so it seems.

Gate 3 of Terminal E was empty when we arrived, and full when our flight was called.  We “preboarded,” airline parlance before the crowd.  The Delta flight attendants are Para-military in boarding procedures so it went relatively quickly and again we were off the ground before our scheduled time.  Dinner was served, see pictures, at 90 minutes after takeoff followed by the drinks wagon.  Delta has two menus in economy class, pasta and chicken.  This trip the pasta was elbows with a pesto-type sauce, and the chicken was cooked in mysterious way, accompanied by potatoes and I think a vegetable.  Don’t look too closely.

The shop window is of two clothes dummies appropriately dressed for – I imagine – teenagers.  However what we see on the street is quite different.  Here the young people seek out successfully the grungy look, old jeans, torn- and battered, matted hair.   The only apparent difference between male and female is the male need shaving, badly.

The Hotel de Ville has a very large cemented space in front of it that is a constant source of activity.  In the winter it is an ice rink, and the rest of the year it has a variety of activities from semi-commercial (eco friendly automotive and scooters) to youth recruitment for apprentice-type training.  My favorite is bread making and generous samples.

The second batch of pictures includes a group of young tourists on bicycles with its American girl leader.  The bikes are the small-wheels folding ones, and each carried a name of historic significance such as George Washington, and various French men of state.  So each rider could remember which bike was hers or his.
The Tour Saint-Jacques is one of my favorite sites in Paris.  For years it was covered with scaffolding and now that the repairs have been completed it is splendid.  It sits in the middle of park where two of the principal theaters face each other with the Tower in between.  One is the Sarah Barnhart Theater and the other Paris Comedy (I’ll check on the title).

The back of the Beaubourg Museum, also known as the Pompidou, is a vast well that serves as a stage for a rich variety of exhibitionists, living statues, jugglers, musicians, and the steps down serves as seats.  The Pompidou is known for its original architecture and colors.  The art collection is mostly contemporary including one of the two official repositories of the work of Colette’s father’s cousin, Jean Launois.  We have several of Jean Launois’ drawings and watercolors in Chapel Hill if you would like to see them.

I have spent a lot of time and several trips to France trying to do background work on Jean Launois leading, I hoped, to a biography.  The research still is not complete and it is not likely to happen for reasons beyond my control (and pocket book).

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

We are still faced with three activities: 1. Preparing to sell the apartment; 2. Activating the television; 3. Colette selling some of her antiques she inherited from her parents and she has collected on her own.

1.      Preparing to see the apartment.  We are committed to lending it to a grandnephew and his girl friend for two months or so beginning in November.  Pierre is now a certificated commercial pilot and his girl friend is an ENT physician.  The job market in France and Europe for newly fledged pilots is thin.  Pierre father is a retired Air France long-distance captain and he is circulating to his pals that he has a son that is looking for employment.  Pilots are made, not born, and part of the making process is the certificate then, like American baseball players, working in the provinces for awhile for recognized serious companies, no arms merchants need apply.

This process thus involves circulating his availability internationally (enter his father) and transmitting cv’s as well.  Pierre hopes to travel to Dubai and other hot places in January and if he finds something, his girlfriend will follow.  There is a demand for ENT physicians even if there is not one for newly certified commercial airline pilots.

2.      Activating the TV.  This has become more complicated.  Several years ago we were informed that our apartment building was to be wired for TV, or that the City of Paris was doing something about wiring the city.  In any case, roof top antennas were not to be permitted, like in Rome, where the city is covered with them.  Last year our small but manageable TV, operating with an antenna on its top, did service, if not brilliant.  This year we turned it on and got a snow storm. 

Each person we asked gave us a different solution.  Pierre dropped by and informed us we needed a “little black box” to resolve the issue.  My experience with Mr. Darty’s employees, regardless of the millions of Euros spent on advertising their value as a new best friend, was limited.  So, as noted earlier, I hopped the friendly No. 75 bus to downtown, got off at the Hôtel de Ville stop, walked back the two blocks (past a particularly attractive sandwich and pastry shop and did not stop for anything) to the Bazaar de Hotel de Ville (BHV to the initiate).  On the 5th floor after interviewing and being interviewed by 3 different employees who, surprisingly enough, wanted to be helpful, a 4th gave me the information I needed.  He did not have the little black box in stock but if I went to Darty or FNAC I could probably find one.

To cut a long story short, I have had my fill of Darty and its not helpful employees, so I made it to FNAC, in the basement of The Form, more about it later.  This also was another Paris experience of employees willfully harassing a foreigner who does not know what he needs to know.  However, after outwitting the outwitters, I struggled home, on foot, almost paralyzed from an aching back, with a magic antenna in a beautiful box. 

More frustration.  It did not work either.  Now, a week later, still more activity with Darty, we have concluded that we will not be able to enjoy TV in France this trip.  Happily there is a public library.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

After a week of frustration with laptop related items it may be functioning again.

Colette and I interviewed Friday, October 31st, and in returned were interviewed, by a sales agent for C-21 Realty, one of 4 offices in Paris.  It was interesting being on the seller side of the interview instead of on the listing.  It was also interesting to note the differences in approach to the problem.  After a shaking of hands, the agent, first name Sophie (we addressed her as Madame, of course) addressed her first questions to me.  In turn I advised her to ask her questions of Colette as the owner/seller.  After the initial questions of when did you buy the place, Colette took Sophie on a tour of the apartment, all two rooms plus kitchen and bathroom.  In a businesslike manner Sophie then paced off of the rooms for measurement purposes   and, without using a calculator advised us that she estimated the area of our apartment at between 40-45 square meters (m2) which, she said, she would use 45 m2 instead of the 48.5 m2 that we had been advised it was.

Monday afternoon we will meet Sophie in her office and learn for how much she would propose marketing the apartment.

When Colette purchased the apartment in 1997 it was essentially a lower-middle class neighborhood, mixed commercial (ground floor) and residential, upper floors.  In its favor was its access to Place de la Republique and five Metro lines, rue du Temple Metro Station and Arts & Métiers, one famous restaurant just around the corner (L’Ami Louis, expensive) and easy access to shopping two long blocks away.  In the 15 years we have lived here we now have a grocery store (FrancPrix) three stores down, 4 additional restaurants, at least 3 art galleries, and a coiffeur for women operated by an African-American.  The former corner bistro has been sold and closed, and we are informed that it will be a chic corner bistro.  This is not promising, depending on the hours.  If it is open week-ends and will not be a plus!

The building is old.  It was built sometime during the late 18th century or early 19th century, earlier rather than later.  The apartment does have charm and individuality; the visible beams, hand hewn, reveals its age as does its plumbing.  We have had contractors in to correct problems of windows that don’t open and the front door not closing or, once closed, impossible to get opened again. In the case of the windows, not opening, as is the case with the door, each technician explains to us slowly in beginners French that the building is very old (someplace between 100- 200 years) and it moves.  Not reassuring! And each time the building moves something gets stuck.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

We met with Sophie at 3 p.m. Monday afternoon, September 2nd.  Because of Colette’s respiratory problems the Metro (subway) systems presents a problem unless she walks slowly.  The Metro has no provision for aged or informed, the stairs are steep and come of the corridors between stations can be very long.  The bus system is excellent but you cannot transfer between lines.  Alternatively taxis are plentiful if you can find a taxi stand and don’t mind the costs. 

We left the apartment at 2:15 PM, a 10 minute walk to Place de la République, then down the stairs to the departure platform (Direction Creteil).  The trains run frequently so in less than 5 minutes we were at the Bastille and we started walking to get the train told Defense.  We walked and walked, and Colette was quite exhausted by the time we arrived at the above ground station.  Our stop was the first and we then had to climb more stairs and come out onto a Faubourg Saint Antoine near where Colette lived until we married.

This part of Paris is all history and the streets reflect this.  We found the agency where Sophie works and crawled in the door –into, of course, the unairconditioned office.  Sophie was ready for us and after a refreshing cup of water we went to work.  I will not tell you how much she estimates would be the lowest to the highest selling price of the apartment.  However the real issue was a recent change to tax laws that come into effect November 1st.  If we have a contract to sell the apartment before that date, the tax on the gross profit after deductions of acquisition costs would be depend on how we had owned it as a secondary residence.  The gross amount would 31% less a reduction for each year of ownership up to 15 years.  After 15 years it is 0.  However, we have owned it for 14 plus years, so our share would be approximately 10%.  Not too bad.  But the new law that comes into effect November 1st extends the period of ownership from15 to 30 years, so our tax on the profits would be in the range of 50%.  We have an interest to try to sell it before November 1st.

We told Sophie that we would think about it over night and call her first thing in the morning.  This morning we called and made an appointment for her to come to the apartment and sign the listing agreement.  This is now done, pictures have been taken, and we cross our fingers and hope for an early buyer!