I love it when I'm walking the streets of Paris and I see a big porte cochère — a carriageway door — that's usually closed but that this time is just standing wide open. I always have to stick my head in or even snap a discreet picture of the courtyard behind the door. This one is a doorway at 95, rue de Sèvres, near the Bon Marché department store in the 6th arrondissement, that I noticed when I was in Paris back in July.
It turns out to be the property of a religious order called Les Lazaristes, founded by saint Vincent de Paul four centuries ago. I don't know how old the building is, but nosing around on the web I found pages saying you can rent a single room in the order's hotel for 20€ a night (26€ for a double). I wonder how that works.
The man above must be Vincent de Paul. His religious organization is called Les Lazaristes because at some point the order's members moved into an old lepers' hospital named after Lazarus, in another part of Paris. That's what I read. Then I read that the Lazaristes were the founders of several Catholic universities in the U.S., including Saint John's in New York and De Paul in Chicago.
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On another front, I've scored two big victories this week. One was getting the car repaired. The speedometer had stopped working, and it's hard to drive around not knowing what your speed is. Actually, the speedometer had been acting up for nearly three years, intermittently. The needle would suddenly drop to zero and stay there for a few minutes or even longer as I was driving along. Then just as suddenly it would come back to life and work normally for days, weeks, or months.
I did a lot of research on the internet and found a lot of other people who were having the same problem with the same car (a Peugeot) as mine. But nobody had found a good solution. One guy said he had the speedometer replaced for something like 600 euros and it didn't help — the brand new one still didn't work. Another said he had the speed sensor in the engine replaced for a reasonable price and voilà, that fixed it. I had my car's speed sensor replaced a couple of weeks ago but he speedometer problem didn't go away. I didn't want to spend 600 euros for a new speedometer and then have it not work.
Anyway, my mechanic was able to find me a used speedometer and install it this week for a lot less than 600 euros. For now it's working and I'm happy not to have to think about the problem any more. My fingers are crossed — I hope that the problem doesn't come back.
The other "victory" involved years-old hassles with the French bureaucracy. I don't want to go into all the details, but getting it all worked out involved gathering up a pile of documents, some of which had to come from the U.S.; paying a government-accredited translator; going to the U.S. embassy in Paris to have a sworn declaration notarized... and on and on. I finally had to engage the services of an American lawyer who practices in Paris, and I'm glad I did. Of course I haven't received his bill yet.
Well, yesterday I got an e-mail from the lawyer's office saying that the matter has now been resolved. Like the car problem, this had been hanging over my head for two or three years. I took me forever to figure out who to go to for a solution, and involved fruitless appointments with a French lawyer here in the Saint-Aignan area, a notaire in Saint-Aignan, and the staff at the mairie at our village hall — not to mention several phone calls to various administrative offices in Paris and the U.S. and requests for information and assistance. Now it's all behind me and the situation is cleared up. Ouf !