There are no private pawn houses to be found on the squares, boulevards or back streets of Paris. After a centuries-long battle, a Napoleonic law was passed in 1804 to ban pawnbrokers — some of them charging interest rates as high as 120 percent. Today the state still holds a monopoly on pawnbroking through an institution known as the Crédit Municipal — interest rates 4 to 9 percent.
The Crédit Municipal de Paris on the Rue des Francs Bourgeois was crowded when I made a lunchtime visit a few days ago, but there wasn’t much chat — just a gentle background hum, with some people nodding off in their seats, waiting to pawn their goods.… Seguir leyendo »
We struck camp at 4 in the morning and set off on a 12 mile hike down the Pacific coast and back to civilization. The unsociable hour was to beat the incoming tide; too late and the ocean breaches the Claro River mouth and bulldog sharks cruise up the channel to feed.
We had no guide with us but waded across without incident in moonlit ankle-deep water. Further up the beach a puma appeared in our torch beam and slunk off to hide behind a dead tree trunk. Dawn finally broke with squadrons of brown pelicans plunging the surf in search of fish.… Seguir leyendo »
Despite my fancy lined ski jacket I instantly turned blue in the freezing headwind as the Zodiac with its powerful outboard motor picked up speed. The three members of the Paris River Police with me seemed oblivious in their specially designed black cold suits. No wonder people stopped and stared from the bridges and quays; we looked like commandos on a mission.
As the only one out of uniform, onlookers probably assumed I was the commander — or someone the others had just arrested. I concentrated on the novelty of seeing Paris from so low down, the city towering above and the swirling waters up close.… Seguir leyendo »