Friday, July 4: En Grève

While America celebrated its birthday, France went quietly about its business (France’s turn comes next Monday), though not without a frisson of excitement for the France-Germany World Cup match scheduled for Friday night. I taught my class and then worked in the office until about 3 p.m. when Dr. Guglielmi and I and our student assistant Caitlyn took a field trip to Tati for paper goods. Tati is a discount store full of clothes and housewares; we go there to get plates, cups, and napkins for our weekly pizza night and charcuterie buffet night. It is impressively cheap–we got 700 plates, cups, and napkins (enough for the whole program’s worth of pizza and charcuterie nights) for 60€. There are several Tati locations but the one we went to is in Italie 2, a mall (centre commerciale) at Place d’Italie in the 13th. It was easier and faster than I thought to get there, buy mass quantities of paper goods, and haul it all back on the metro. We still have to get drinks Monday and that will be a larger undertaking.

Friday night I was supposed to go to a performance of Robbins/Ratmansky by the Paris Opera Ballet at the Opéra Garnier. Prof. Chen got me an inexpensive ticket some time ago. Then it transpired that I needed to give up my ticket so that one of her students could attend (the ballet was a field trip for her class). But then yesterday, another student wanted to sell her ticket, so Prof. Chen bought it and I was back on the roster. I had reconciled myself to not going but when the opportunity re-arose I was very excited! Once the Tati haul was stowed away I had just enough time to freshen up and eat a bowl of cereal while talking to Mr. B. on Skype, then we were off to the ballet. Extra props to Prof. Chen for figuring out a route to the Opéra Garnier that none of the rest of us had thought of: RER B from Cité U to Châtelet-Les Halles (Satan’s own favorite train station), cross the platform and take RER A to Auber, whose exit is directly in front of the opera house. So much easier than doing it on the metro!

So we got there in good time and were greeted by the opera’s immaculate ushers who handed us these flyers:

I’d been hearing about the grève des intermittents de spectacle on the radio without giving it too much thought, but now it was right in our faces. The performance was canceled because of the strike. It’s been a big summer for strikes: air traffic controllers, the RATP (Paris transit authority), and the SNCF (French national railroads) have all been on strike in the last few weeks and we’ve been lucky that none of it has affected our travel. As such things go I’d rather miss a ballet than be unable to come to France at all because there’s no air traffic controller to help guide the plane. But it was still a big disappointment. We were at least able to get our money back–had to wait in a fairly long queue but they did it on the spot and in cash. If I understood correctly what I was overhearing while waiting, it was a one-day national strike agreed upon among multiple unions. Hopefully the action will not affect any other performances that members of our group are supposed to attend. The strike already caused the cancellation of the Avignon film festival, which is a pretty big deal!
In lieu of the ballet we went to dinner at Le Vaudeville, which is always a treat. To be honest, I don’t think the students knew what they were in for when they agreed to a “traditional French dinner.” The food was comprehensible to everyone but the pace of service takes getting used to. We were already tired and maybe not in exactly the right frame of mind to enjoy it. Nevertheless, it was lovely as ever. I had duck foie gras as my starter followed by steamed cod with mashed potatoes and then a lemon crème with red fruit for dessert. I was disappointed that the beef tartare wasn’t on the set menu last night. I’d have ordered it just to see the students’ faces as I ate it. But the fish was good. Every time I come to France I resolve to eat more fish. 
By the time we finished, paid up, and came back on the metro it was after midnight. A short sleep and onward to the next adventure!

4 thoughts on “Friday, July 4: En Grève

  1. Well Ratp hasn't been on strike for several months as far as I can remember.
    As for commuting easily, think about ViaNavigo on Apple or play store.

  2. The other app worth downloading is Citymapper, which does loads of different cities – if my phone hadn't broken I could tell you which, but I know they include London (well, duh!), Paris, Berlin and NYC. It is the app I use most often and which I shall miss the worst until my phone comes back from hospital!

  3. I thought my boss had told me that RATP was on strike just a few weeks ago but I may have gotten it wrong or remembered wrong (been absorbing a LOT of info since getting here). Will definitely check out ViaNavigo and add it to my page of apps and links. Thanks!

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