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Millennium Bug? Not if the Weather Gets Here First!

Car crushed in storm in Paris
Photo from PompiersdeParis.fr

While big happenings in Paris don’t tend to make it onto the international news programs, you all may have recently seen news about our little wind storm. Sure, it’s been a particularly cool and soggy winter in Paris, and on Christmas Eve I recall hearing the CNN newscaster say “gale-force winds,” but Mr. Hall and I were still a bit surprised to wake up before dawn the day after Christmas to the sound of my potted plants crashing on the balcony. We ran around and checked all of the windows, wondered briefly if we should tape them, and then tried to fall asleep again through the howling winds, the sounds of things crashing off of everyone’s balconies in the building, and the constant ringing of the security alarms at the commercial center below us.

A City of Broken Trees Our plan for the Sunday after Christmas was to check out the Village de Noël at Trocadero, where tons of snow had been hauled in and a little village constructed so that people could ice skate, snow toboggan, and buy a cup of hot cocoa. We had already heard that the airports were a mess, and that the Metro lines that ran above ground wouldn’t be working, but we weren’t prepared for the huge amounts of debris all over the streets. Broken glass, pieces of construction, twisted gutters, tipped motorbikes, shop awnings on the ground, and lots of huge old trees with broken branches. Needless to say, the Village de Noël didn’t fare too well either, much to the disappointment of many of the small (and big) children gathered around the closed gates.

As an alternative way to amuse ourselves and walk off Christmas Day’s dinner (we ate at Le Train Bleu at the Gare de Lyon, a beautiful authentic Belle Epoch restaurant), we decided to check out the pre-Millennium Celebration preparations on the Champs Elysées. More downed trees, overturned benches, tangled Christmas lights. It was drizzling rain, but all along the street workers were constructing the line-up of ferris wheels and windmills that will be lit up at the stroke of midnight on December 31st (known as St. Sylvestre here). I have to admit I’d never been a big fan of this street, but even I was getting excited.

Damage Worse than We Thought Just hope the weather will be more agreeable, and that some of the mess from the storm will get cleared up in time. As I write this, Mr. Hall is stuck at home watching a Bond film in French, because the storm blew the satellite dish off of the bar where he was going to watch his Manchester United football game. At least we haven’t lost power. Apparently, quite a few folks around Paris have experienced what one might call a ‘Y2K Practice Outage.’ If they don’t get back on the grid by Friday night, I guess it won’t matter if the city’s power company falls victim to Le Bogue (a great example of reverse franglais). But even as I say this, the storm was actually quite more devastating than we had realised. To get the whole scoop, drop in on long-time Paris resident Ric Erickson and read his storm report.

Check the Forecast Paris supposedly has pretty mild weather patterns. This is never the case, though, when I have friends coming to town. I tell them not to bother bringing shorts in September, and we experience the hottest day of the year (on my wedding day, no less). When I tell Minnesotan friends the winters here are mild with nary a snowflake around, we get enough inches to build a small bonhomme de niege (snowman). My suggestion, check out the weather on www.meteofrance.com, or TF1 whose little symbols make it easy enough to understand even though it’s in French and in Centigrade. A good site in English is Wunderground, based out of Ann Arbor, but I wouldn’t hold that against them. And for those of you addicted to it already, the Weather Channel provides a pretty constant update, so up-to-date that I couldn’t see if it had predicted the rain and hail we had this morning. Also interesting to note: they predict snow for Friday, while TF1 says it will be sunny. If the weather continues the way it has gone so far this winter, they will probably both be correct at some point during the day.

Author’s note: I really did mean to write about the Millennium, but I’m assuming you’re all as sick of the hype as I am. But just in case you’re still in a panic about finding some cool New Year’s Eve plans, never fear, link-o-mania is here to save your lost souls! Check out some of these sites for events for familiesclubbies, and visitors!

November 2019 Update

On New Year’s Eve 1999, instead of trying to find a club or restaurant that would have cost us a fortune, we simply put a bottle of Champagne and two classes into a backpack, bundled up and headed out to the Champs Elysées, which was cleaned up enough to set up the series of Ferris Wheels to ring in the new millennium. We battled the crowds and finally found a good spot on Place de la Concorde to see the fireworks show that was planned from the Eiffel Tower, but didn’t have high expectations. Probably because of that, we — and seemingly all of the French people surrounding us with their bottles of Champagne — were stunned by the way the Eiffel Tower was fired up like a rocket ship (see the festivities — and the crowds — on French TV here). Duly impressed, we enjoyed the show and our bubbly, then got crushed in the crowd trying to get home. My little Nokia phone was stolen (and the jerk prank-called everyone in my address book telling them he loved them, which in hindsight is kind of endearing), but we had happy memories of the evening nonetheless. The storm didn’t prevent Paris from celebrating after all. I’d like to give a little shoutout to the Wayback Machine for making it possible to see some of the old articles from that time period, like Ric Erickson’s Metropole.

This article is one of the 78 original “Secrets of Paris” articles published between September 1999 and July 2004. After disappearing into the internet graveyard for almost 15 years, I’m publishing them all here, one by one, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Secrets of Paris: “1999-2019: Twenty Years of the Secrets of Paris”

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