Wednesday, October 17, 2007

CPM #3

One of the issues much discussed here in the Middle East is the danger of modernity, in the form of extravagant real estate developments, huge tourist attractions and suchlike, obliterating any traces of the already fragile and comparatively shallow indigenous culture.

France would have so much more to lose but they are unafraid of the modern. Consider Velib'. The notion of introducing 20,000 bicycles for rental, using a modality making it attractive even for short spontaneous journeys, was viewed with some skepticism [link] when introduced. But the daily uptake is now between 50 and 70 thousand unique users and the Velib' has emerged as a fact of Parisian life. In a strange way it even encourages the notoriously individualistic citizens of the city to talk to each other while collecting, returning, exchanging velocipedes at the 750 stations all across the city.

Of course, if all this talking to one another is just too much of the modern and rather un-French there remains the refuge which has stood the test of time - in a few of the best cases almost unchanged for a century - the traditional French café. Although I remain a regular patron of the Café Flore in Saint-Germain I found that on this trip I kept on visiting Le Select in Montparnasse, where I watched Scotland lose its last match in the Rugby World Cup tournament. Got many compliments on my kilt, though!

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