Thursday 29 November 2007

Paris Chinatown Arts et Metiers

You’ll find the oldest and the smallest Chinatown in Paris in the 3rd arrondissement near to Metro Arts et Metiers. This neighbourhood is quite a contrast to the gaudy Chinatowns of Belleville and 13th arrondissement. It’s made up of just 2 streets; rue Marie and rue Volta and is lined with Chinese restaurants, supermarkets and merchants. In the 1930s Chinese mostly from the Wen Zhou province arrived in Paris to make their fortunes. They formed a community around Arts & Metiers to set up leather workshops and handicraft shops

A further point of interest in this area is the half-timbered building a 3 rue Volta which is said to be the oldest house in Paris dating back to the end of the 13th Century or beginning of the 14th Century. It is now occupited by an Asian restaurant offering 'soupe pho'.

Thursday 22 November 2007

An English Pub in Paris

Finding a decent English Pub in Paris is sometimes as difficult as finding a working train driver.

Possibly the best, and the certainly the most authentic is the Bombardier. It serves real ale and decent grub and has a happy hour until 9pm. It also benefits from a splendid location right on the place de Pantheon.

This is also where we held a soirée for the language students for the English courses and French courses in Paris that we organise. On the whole it went well though when I tried to introduce them to our 'warm' English beer some of them found it rather peculiar.

It's an acquired taste.

Monday 19 November 2007

France Strikes and the Special Regimes

The Strike Continues
Originally uploaded by malias.

France was hit by a fifth day of strike action today transport around France was at a minimum and in Paris the Metro was severely disrupted (except line 14 which runs driverless trains), even though a minority of train drivers support the strike.

Train drivers are complaining about the end of their special priveleges (régimes spéciaux) which allows them to retire as early as 50. These working practices were brought in during the age of steam when driving a train was physically demanding and often dangerous, but the days of shoveling coal into a blazing boiler are over. Many people argue that train drivers and other transport workers should be subject to the same rules as everybody else.

Amongst the public the strike is extremely unpopular a recent poll showed 71% are against it.

This is however of little comfort to people facing nightmare journeys to get to and from work and tourists who've had their holidays ruined.

Friday 16 November 2007

First Eurostar to St Pancras from Paris

Arrival at St Pancras
Originally uploaded by malias.

Yesterday (14th November 2007) I took the very first Eurostar from Gare du Nord to the new St Pancras station. The journey to London now takes only 2 hours 15 minutes. In fact it is now quicker to get to Paris from London than it is to Liverpool or York.

The only problem was a transport strike on the French side so of the channel. I left my house an hour earlier than I would do normally, anticipating a long walk to Gare du Nord. As it happened I managed to get a Metro within 2 minutes (bloody French unions you can't even rely on them to have a proper strike these days)

So I had to kill an hour in Gare du Nord before entering the Eurostar terminal which is not easy.

The Eurostar train was full of journalists and train spotters. Half the seats were empty (I suspect that some people were not as lucky as me in overcoming the transport strike).

On arriving at St Pancras we were treated to large crowds and music from the London Philharmonic Orchestra. As I left the terminal I was give a Sun newspaper "Welcome to England" pack which contained: tea bags, Mr Kipling's mince pies and Walker's crisps. It made me want to get on the next train back to Paris.

The highlight of the journey though was St Pancras station itself. Spectacular and beautiful after it's £800 million refurbishment.

It was truly magnificent, which is more than I can say for the mince pies.

Friday 9 November 2007

90th Anniversary of the Russian Revolution

Joseph Stalin
Originally uploaded by malias.

Strolling by the River Seine in Paris the other day I came across a bookseller selling posters of Joseph Stalin, Lenin and others from Soviet Russia.

If someone was selling a poster of Adolf Hitler he'd probably be lynched by the nearest lampost but somehow it is acceptable to sell images of Stalin a mass murderer of at least 20 million of his own people during the purges of the 1930s. Lenin was no pussycat either but he murdered a mere 3 million people.

Two excellent books on the subject are Robert Conquest's The Great Terror and Martin Amis's Koba The Dread.

Meanwhile this week sees the 90th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. There will be, no doubt, a fair few die hard communists in Paris and elsewhere celebrating the fact.

As for me I subscribe to Jon Luc Godard's assertion ""Je suis Marxiste, tendance Groucho,"