Lights Out in Paris

Unbelievable. The New York Times runs its worst travel article ever about night life in Paris. Seems that smokers, no longer permitted to huff and puff indoors, are ducking out of the city’s music clubs and getting it on outside. The smoke-filled dens of iniquity are no more; if there’s iniquity in those Left Bank basements, it’s smoke-free. The article interviews a couple of chain-smokers and a couple of couple of club owners near the Bastille and concludes that Paris night life is moving to Berlin. Cornichon is outraged! Did anyone actually read, let alone edit this piece? As sociology, it jumps to unsubstantiated conclusions, reporting rumor and anecdotes. Were we dues-paying members of Atout France, the French Government Tourism Agency, we’d be singing the “Marseillaise,” taking up arms. No, not against the smoking ban, which is eminently reasonable. Nor against its unintended consequences, of noisy, nicotine-addicted club goers who keep the bourgeois neighbors awake after dark. No, the villains are reporters Scott Sayare and Maia de la Baume, who twice quote disgruntled Frenchmen: “‘Paris, it’s not the City of Lights anymore,’ Mr. Dechambre said. ‘It goes to sleep at 11,'” and “‘The generalized law of silence that is battering down upon our events and our living spaces is soon to relegate the City of Lights to the rank of European capital of sleep,’ a group of music promoters wrote.” The fuss over late-night noise outside clubs may be new to Paris (though not to Seattle); it’s a contentious problem. What’s not a matter for debate, on the other hand, is this notion that Paris is the “City of Lights.” It’s not. That would be Las Vegas, plugged into the power grid 24 hours a day. Paris has a different moniker: City of Light. Singular. La Ville Lumiere, so named for its Enlightenment, not electric lights (that came later). Light! Under the Impressionists, its broad boulevards, relatively low buildings and northerly latitude ensured that summer days would be sunlit far into the evening. Daylight! There’s no difference in pronunciation between lumière and lumières, but no Frenchman would ever use the plural. The only explanation for the Times‘s error is lost in translation: incompetence. Same word in French, by the way. Seattle-based Francophile Ronald Holden blogs about wine, food & travel at Article and photograph © 2010 Ronald Holden. Please post your comments or questions and let them flow. Register HERE to do so if you need a Bonjour Paris user name and password.

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