As I was sitting at my computer on Bastille Day - working, because, as my boss said, it's not a holiday in the U.S. - I heard the high whine of aircraft. I ran to the terrace to see whether Paris was being invaded. But no, the French government was showing off its military hardware in a massive flyover, following the Seine. The irony of the French flexing their muscles on their independence day while preaching pacifism wasn't lost on me.
July is the month of summer sales in Paris. "Soldes," they're called. Stores can't just mark down things whenever they feel like it. The government mandates two sale periods a year, one in the winter, one in summer. This month it has been hard to go out for dry cleaning or a bottle of milk without buying shoes, clothes, jewelry. The prices are high to begin with, so even with a 30% or 50% discount things are trés "cher." But hard to resist. Why, exactly, does everything look so enticing here?
Some perverse people in the Travel section want to know what I hate about Paris. To satisfy them, I will start a list: I hate when I forget my shopping cart, which makes getting groceries very tedious. I hate that you can't get a cheap pedicure here or find a decent yoga class. They're all too easy or too hard, and you have to sign up for a whole series as opposed to dropping in class by class, as you do in L.A. And why is it so hard to find mouthwash? That's a little telling, no? A reader named Adrienne wants to know whether I've gone to St. Denis, which is near Paris and has a notable cathedral but isn't in most guidebooks. It is in my Paris and Versailles Blue Guide, which says the church, built by Abbot Suger in the 12th century about 10 miles north of Paris, is an important early prototype of the Gothic style, where Joan of Arc came to dedicate her armor. The Métro goes there, so I'll try it. Thanks, again, to another Postcards reader.
Leonora in Irvine wannts to know whether permission to paint is needed at Paris tourist sites. I called the Musée National du Moyen Âge - Thermes et Hôtel de Cluny and found that pencil drawing, not painting, is permitted on the premises without prior approval. The same is true at the Rodin Museum. She also wants to know whether there are any short-term art classes in Paris. Some interesting ones are offered by the Women's Institute for Continuing Education, 20 Boulevard du Montparnasse, 15th Arrondissement, 011-33-1-45-66-75-50, www.wice-paris.org. (Note: The institute is closed for the summer but reopens Aug. 19.)