Monday, 17 March 2014

Paris in the Spring

Le trafic sera fortement RALENTI dans tout le réseau...

or..what's old is new.

We returned late Saturday from a week in Prague - me for a business meeting and my wife and son to see the city (OK; I spent some of the time seeing it as well).  The Czech capital is like a sort of living museum, with much of its olla podrida of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque buildings spared the destruction of the bombings of World War 2 (much of Germany, London) or massive urban renewal (Haussmann's Paris, the Soviet binges of the 1950s and 1960s).  

Having returned to Paris, the first thing we noted was how warm it is - indeed, it seems that Spring has come to France much earlier than usual.  Sunday, the temperatures rose to 20 degrees (nearly 70F), and the flowering trees have started to do their thing.  One can almost imagine Maurice Chevalier
Think of Paris in the spring,
When each solitary thing
Is more beautiful than ever before.
You can see every tree
  almost saying, "Look at me!"
Then again, unlike friends back in the US who have suffered one of the worst winters in decades in terms of snow and cold (and apparently, it will snow again tomorrow, the 18th of March), we never really got "winter" in France - I cannot recall a single night when the temperature reached freezing, and we did not have even a flake of snow.

All that is very nice, of course, save for the air pollution that has visited the capital.

The local news has reported that - due to "temperature inversions and lack of wind" - fine particles in the air have reached dangerous levels, and that drastic measures are to be put in place.  As a first measure, speeds on the périphérique (the freeway that circles Paris) were to be reduced as a curb on exhaust.  

Subsequently, to encourage the use of public transit, the RATP and RER in Ile de France have opened their trains and buses free of charge.  This made the morning commute today a bit cozy.  

That was not enough, and the government have taken a most severe step of imposing restrictions on cars.  

Today, private vehicles with a plaque d'immatriculation (licence plate) ending with an even number are banned from the roads.  Tomorrow, it will be the odds who are proscribed
Ce matin, seuls les véhicules dont la plaque d'immatriculation se terminent par un chiffre impair peuvent circuler à Paris et dans la petite couronne. 700 policiers sont mobilisés pour s'assurer que les automobilistes respectent la mesure. 
700 police have been deployed to try to ensure compliance; the result has been mixed to say the least - I observed several even plates pass me on my way to work.  Oh well.

This all reminds me of 35 years ago, when the oil embargo resulted in "odd/even" days at the gas stations.  Jerry Brown was our governor in those days in California, and he is installed again in Sacramento.


On the plus side, I did not see a single leisure suit on the Metro...

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