lunch in Paris’s Little Tokyo

My 9 year-old godson’s favorite food is sushi, so off we went to Japantown on a cool and sunny Thursday afternoon.

After eating at a sidewalk table at Sushi Gan, 41 rue des Petits Champs, we walked over to AKI, a popular Japanese bakery at number 16 rue St. Anne for dessert. Lining both sides of the rue St. Anne in the 1st and 2nd arrondissements, you’ll find sushi and ramen restaurants, bakeries, bubble tea shops, Japanese supermarkets and a Korean butcher.

Unbeknownst to us, and as we sat at a small table enjoying our mochi and my double espresso, my godson’s 17 year-old sister was on the other side of town hurtling down the boulevards of Paris on an electric scooter with three girlfriends who had come down from Lille for the day. They were four: two standing on each scooter, the one behind holding onto the one in front who steered. No helmets and scant knowledge of the city. I was horrified when she told me later in the day. They had rendezvoused on the Champs-Elysées before scooting (scootering?) over to the Eiffel Tower and back. I mentally plotted what route they might have taken: avenue George V to the river, across one of the bridges, and then along the Quai Branly? Rue Pierre Charron to Trocadero and then across the Pont d’Iéna? It’s quite a hike. She didn’t know how she got there, she said; it was their Smartphone that guided them.

After dessert, my companion and I ambled down the narrow street of the rue des Petits Champs, popping into shops along the way, towards the Place des Victoires which used to be a great shopping area. Sadly, most of the boutiques are shuttered permanently due to Covid.

Here’s the Bistrot Vivienne below which sits at the entrance of one of my favorite passages in Paris: the beautiful Galerie Vivienne. A must-visit for tourists and residents alike; at Christmas it’s all lit up with fairy lights. We went inside and popped in and out of the boutiques. La Marelle: a designer second-hand clothing shop I’ve been buying from (and selling to) for two decades. Legrand Filles et Fils: a pristine wine shop and restaurant in which I purchased a nice bottle of Chinon, my favorite wine from the Loire Valley. They also sell old-fashioned candies which my godson didn’t want because they looked ‘bizarre‘.

From there we backtracked and headed to another must-visit place: the Jardin du Palais Royal. At its far end you can catch the metro on the rue de Rivoli directly across from the Louvre museum. I’ll never tire of these beautiful arcades and the hidden garden within. Never ever. The Jardin du Palais Royal is my most favorite spot in all of Paris.


Earlier in the week we went twice (with his sister) to my local swimming pool, ate Five Guys burgers late at night on the Champs-Elysées, went twice to the funfair and did a bunch of other things. A good time was had by all. I put them on the train Friday and their father picked them up at the other end in Lille. Today is Saturday afternoon and I’m in relaxation mode. Now, where’s that nice bottle of Chinon?

funfair with the kids

During the summer holidays, a traditional funfair is set up in the Tuileries Gardens. Children and adults, tourists and Parisians all enjoy the 60 or so attractions: bumper cars, ghost trains, shooting gallery, hall of mirrors, 1900s wooden horses merry-go-round. 

I didn’t see any wooden horses, but there’s the big ferris wheel, called La Grande Roue, and lots of other rides. We go at night because it’s all lit up, more fun, and I like to take night photos.

Late at night the rue de Rivoli becomes a route for cyclists, scooters and skateboards.

25 Afghan refugees arrive in Lille, France

They’re in charge now. Is this how you govern a country? By wielding AK-47 assault rifles?

The Socialist mayor, Madame Aubry, welcomed 25 Afghans to this northern city where I’m currently on vacation. France will accept thousands more, as will many other countries following President Biden’s blunderous withdrawal from that country.

My friend who lives in Lille is an interpreter who works with the French government. He will meet with the Afghan families. He speaks French, English, Arabic, Kurdish and Farsi. Farsi is similar to one of the Afghan languages which is Dari.

The good citizens of Lille are invited to donate clothes, toys, blankets, linens and basic necessity products, etc. to the Afghan families.

https://www.francebleu.fr/infos/international/25-refugies-afghans-sont-arrives-a-lille-1629357080

Afghanistan

The Guardian article below is entitled “The abandonment of Afghanistan is shameful”. As usual, women and girls will be most affected by the takeover of the country by the barbaric Islamist Taliban. It makes me shudder just to think about it. These are the savages who, in 2012, shot Malala Yousafzai in the head. She was 15 years old. Her crime? Her vocal opinion on the right of girls to be educated. Her father was a schoolteacher who ran a chain of schools, for both boys and girls, in the Swat Valley, Northwest Pakistan.

Where is Malala today? After completing a high school education in Birmingham, England, she won a place at Oxford University and studied three years for a BA degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. She graduated in 2020. Starting now in Afghanistan, all girls are forced to cover themselves with Islamic garb. Their only roles will be … well, you know what their roles will be. The word “regression” is an understatement; more like extinguishment and enslavement. And this in the year 2021.

Like rats, the Taliban came out of their caves (literally) in Pakistan and elsewhere. They are the victors in the end thanks to yet another precipitous and seemingly unplanned American “strategy”. Do we need to be reminded of previous strategic disasters? The abandonment, again and again, of the Iraqi Kurds? Colin Powell holding a fake vial of anthrax while giving a pro-war presentation to the UN Security Council in 2003? (there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq). The Bush Administration’s decision to disband the Iraqi army shortly after the fall of Saddam in 2003 which subsequently led to the making of ISIS? The Libyan intervention in 2011 which resulted in the murder of Gaddafi and hundreds of thousands of migrants coming up from all over Africa to pass through the henceforth unprotected Libya to make their way to Europe in tiny, overcrowded boats? You can thank Sarkozy, Hillary Clinton, Obama and David Cameron for that.

Just like all the other interventions and hasty pull-outs committed by the U.S. in the past, there will be dire consequences from this Afghanistan action. Why? Because the Taliban is a fanatical Islamist ideology. To leave the country and its citizens in the hands of these zealots is sheer folly. It could have been done differently.

The best readers’ comment that I came across in The New York Times on the fall of Kabul is this – “Among the most indelible images from Afghanistan this week was young girls headed to school in the early morning, defiant and determined. It must be terrifying to the Taliban, who thrive on ignorance, to imagine facing a populace that is educated and in which females’ equal worth is recognized.”

Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door

For a month now, one of France’s radio stations – France Inter – has been airing a tribute to this celebrated singer-songwriter on Sunday mornings. Going way back to his origins and early work, I and every other listener, have been rediscovering the genius of Bob Dylan.

I admit to feeling baffled when he won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016. But now that I’ve become better acquainted with his early songs from the 1960s and re-listened to the whole vocal range and span of his repertoire, I agree with the award citation –  “For having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

This morning, while standing at my kitchen table pouring almond milk into my large mug of coffee, this song came on (link way down below.) I turned up the volume and listened with rapt attention. And then, to my utter utter surprise, I began to weep. A flood of memories overwhelmed me and I had to sit down. (Proof that songs really can trigger an emotional response in the listener.) I felt intensely sad. I felt an acute sense of loss: of a past era, a time and place, great great musicians that defined my rebellious teen years and left a huge mark on the artistic landscape. Far away, never to return (except on YouTube). We’ve moved so far from the world I inhabited as a teenager; in some ways a better world, in other ways worse. Much worse.

And to be replaced by what? By who? Who are our role models and heroes today? I can’t think of a single person. (If someone can offer up a name, please share.)

The funny thing is that I was never a Bob Dylan fan. A mere child in the 1960s, I was busy listening to Sparky’s Magic Piano on the record player. Oh, how I loved Sparky. In the early 1970s I was into Cat Stevens, Simon & Garfunkel and The Beatles, of course.

Through my window I could see passers-by on the street glancing up to my apartment; startled, I guess, to hear this artist’s signature nasal strains floating out on a quiet Sunday morning.

Dylan’s songs encapsulated not only an era, but his humanity. Listen to the song below, nearly 8 million hits. Turn it up loud and read the lyrics. I initially thought that the lyrics were in reference to the Vietnam war, but not so apparently. In any case, they’re still eerily relevant today.

“It’s gettin’ dark, too dark to see,”  In 2021, this is what I feel for our future. Now 80 years old, I wonder what the great man himself thinks about all this.

From WikiBob Dylan (born Robert Allen Zimmerman; May 24, 1941) is an American singer-songwriter, author and visual artist. Often regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time, Dylan has been a major figure in popular culture during a career spanning nearly 60 years. Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s, when songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1963) and “The Times They Are a-Changin” (1964) became anthems for the civil rights and anti-war movements. His lyrics during this period incorporated a range of political, social, philosophical, and literary influences, defying pop music conventions and appealing to the burgeoning counterculture.

Sunday in Paris in 1957

Above 1957, below 2021

Ever since I saw the top photo of the Louvre metro station entrance, photographed in 1957 for a Christian Dior advertising campaign, I’ve wanted to take a photo of it. Well, I finally did. Last Sunday I grabbed my camera, jumped on the metro and rode the rails to this metro station to take a picture.

What’s changed is the name: from Louvre to Louvre-Rivoli. But everything else seems to be the same: the ornate wrought iron railings, the large map of the city, the buildings in the backgound, the drooping pendant light globes made to resemble lily-of-the-valley flowers. Pure Art Nouveau and designed by French architect, Hector Guimard, between 1900 and 1913. Today, these metro station entrances are protected historic monuments.

As I strolled up the rue de Rivoli towards the Place de la Concorde, I began to think what Paris must’ve been like in 1957. When I got home and began hunting on YouTube, I found this video entitled 1957: Sunday in Paris. (Le dimanche à Paris).