Friday, July 17, 2009

Heated picnics

With great reluctance, I dragged myself out of the apartment yesterday—even though I had the day off (without pay, of course)—in order to pay some bills. Thanks to my rotten luck, it was one of the hottest days in the past two weeks, with more than 100° F on the street. In the evening, this brought people outdoors (an overcast helped shield people from the blazing sun). This is in part because many places don't have air conditioning, and in part because many people seem to think that 100° F in the shade is “nice weather” (an opinion I'm sure they will change in the future, as hot weather becomes the norm).

On the Passerelle des Arts (more often called the Pont des Arts, although technically any purely pedestrian bridge is a passerelle), there were tons of people sitting and having picnics in the evening. This bridge is consistently popular for picnics of all sorts, from shared bags of potato chips to five-course meals, and there was barely room to stand on the bridge today. Traditionally, people have brought alcohol onto the bridge, since French people can't get through the day without this drug, but there's now an ordinance that prohibits alcohol on the bridge after 10:30 PM (it was about 9:00 PM when I walked over it). The police were out and about, no doubt preparing to enforce this ordinance. There have been scuffles on the bridge in the past in the wee hours, when people got a little bit too drunk, but generally the mood is excellent and it's quite safe.

The outdoor socialization wasn't limited to the bridge. In the Latin Quarter, the terraces of restaurants were absolutely packed, even though this was only a Thursday. In fact, walking through the narrow streets of the Latin Quarter, with their limited vehicular traffic, I could hear the hubbub of conversation in the rue de Buci from several streets away. It was just amazingly crowded, but it was a very nice atmosphere, apart from the sweltering heat. Again, this was in part because most restaurants and bars aren't air-conditioned, and in part because people just wanted to get out of their stuffy offices and apartments … and in part because it's illegal to smoke indoors in public places now, and many French people are just as addicted to tobacco as they are to alcohol.

I arrived home very tired and dehydrated. Oddly enough (and just my luck), today (Friday) is much cooler, only about 68° F outside, and I'm trying to muster the energy to go out and profit from it. I guess I need to buy some groceries anyway.

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