My Walk Through Paris
After breakfast, I bid Hannah adieu and I wished her well. After nursing my blisters last night, I was raring to go. I walked to the Notre Dame and explored a bit. It was still cool and not many people were out and about yet. I followed a couple of people through a door, because they looked like they knew what they were doing and I wanted to look that way too. I was stunned at the magnificence. I took a seat and just pondered where I was, the artistry and craftsmanship and its purpose. It was a humbling and reverent experience. Janis, you were right. I walked around for a while inspecting all the private chapels, paintings, carvings, stained glass, etc. Remarkable.
As I started to leave, I found myself at the entrance and realized I had probably entered through the exit and had probably bypassed a tour or entrance fee of some sort. Feeling shame at having just ripped off the church, which wasn’t how I wanted to start my day, I asked about it and got blank stares from the staff at the entrance. I had indeed walked in the exit, but I turned and noticed others were just walking in the entrance, no fees. Now feeling relieved, I dropped some money in the donation box.
I then walked, casually because of the blisters, to the Louvre. I think I have an affinity for getting through doors I’m not supposed to because somehow I found my way in, quite by accident I assure you, and then promptly, and quite by accident, found my way out again. Dang. I wound up in a massive court yard. I walked through one of the arch ways because I saw the pyramid through it and was now in the main court yard, open at one end but oh so much more massive and impressive.
Anyway, there were so many tourists and I decided not to go in, at least not via the main entrance anyway. I found a shady spot and spent an hour or so watching people. What a treat. I got myself up and headed toward the Place de la Concord but spotted a very inviting park along the way and decided I’d like to watch some more people and have a bite to eat. I got some sandwich makings nearby and claimed my spot on the edge of a sort of shrubbery maze with statues in amongst it. Very green, nice cool breeze and silly people. I looked around and noticed that I was still in the confines of the Louvre. Boy howdy, this place is big. I think I put in another hour and half or so here.
I set out again toward the Place de la Concorde and the Arc du Triumph in the distance and stumbled on another park. Actually I think it was all part of the same park. But you know, I had to sit and watch people for a while, because that’s what I do now apparently. Statues all over the place, gardens, fountains, and people. The French sure know how to build a park. After doing my thing there I finally made it to Place de la Concorde and found another shady spot up on a hill with a great view of the big traffic roundabout and the chaos that ensues. In addition to building great parks, they also like to honk horns. At times it sounded like an orchestra. Oh yeah, and that big tower of Eiffel thing that I’ve heard about was in the distance.
So, I started heading that direction. Oh man, the closer I got, the farther away it got. I eventually made it though. And what was my reward? You guessed it… another park. I relaxed here for three hours. I was treated to a procession of tourists, many of whom took a picture of their mate/spouse/lover pushing on the tower or pinching it between their thumb and fingers… you’ve all seen those perspective pictures. I got pictures of all of them because I was sitting over in the shade, like the locals do, because they know what they’re doing and I want to look like I do as well. I watched many try to set their camera up on the ground or a fence or their packs, with a timed exposure to get all of their party in the picture, many were unsuccessful. Then, I spied a man in jeans and a T-shirt, he had a big pot belly and wore an old cap. He had to be a yank. I then noticed his wife trying to set up the camera to no avail. She was at it for 20 minutes. I couldn’t bear to watch anymore, so I walked over, said Bonjour and with gestures, offered to take their picture with their camera. “Oh yes please” he said in a thick Texas drawl.
I took the picture and they were very appreciative. He kept thanking me by saying “mercy”. It then dawned on me that he thought I was French. So, I obliged with “je vu en prie, au revoir”… all sing songy like the French say it. I can fake it pretty well. As I walked away I chuckled and called him a crazy arrogant Americaaaaann under my breath.
I had my camera on a couple that was picnicking and lazing on the grass, just then the sprinklers came on and I got it on film. They got to their feet pretty fast and headed out for drier ground. It was a shame, but oh so funny.
On my way back to a metro entrance to get back to the hostel (no way was I walking back), there was a young man leaning on a wall. As I approached, he started to take a step forward as if to intercept me, then he slowed. Just as I was passing him, he started to reach for the ground. Immediately, I knew what was happening. I had read about a another con where someone picks a ring up from the ground and asks if it’s yours, when you say no, he then attempts to sell it to you for a great price of 100 euros or whatever he can get away with and of course it’s a crap ring worth 1 euro.
So just as he was bending down, I scanned the ground and there was nothing there. As I passed, he said “excuse me miss, is this your ring?” and I saw him produce the ring from his palm. He was smooth though and he obviously had me pegged as an American right away. I just smiled and scornfully shook my finger at him and he put his head down and walked away in shame and then searched out a new victim I’m sure. So that’s two attempted scams so far and as far as I know, I haven’t been pick pocketed yet. I’ve been trying to stay alert for that.
I got back to the room and had a new roommate named Becks. She’s from Scotland. Just another young girl traveling around. Where do these kids get the time and the resources to do this I wondered. We chatted quite a bit and of course the discussion led to politics and she didn’t care for Americans and made no distinction between the people and the government. I did tell her I was American before that, but that didn’t keep her from being honest with me which is good I suppose. We got along great though. Later in the evening she asked if I had eaten supper yet and I said no but wasn’t that hungry, so she went off looking for food. She wanted something really cheap because she didn’t have much money.
She popped her head in the room and told me she scored a package of basmati rice and asked if I’d like some, I said OK. She went off to prepare it and called me down to the kitchen where a plate of the rice was waiting for me along with some red bell pepper and zucchini she acquired and cooked. It was so simple and light and quite tasty. She also found a small bottle of red wine (it’s pretty cheap here). I was really amazed that this girl, who doesn’t have much money, put together a workable meal and offered to share it with me. And her attitude led me to believe that she’s always this generous. I wanted to give her some money in return but I realized that would ruin the whole thing. We were talking just before turning in for the night and I realized she could use a couple of metro tickets for her travels the next day, so I gave her two of mine since I had too many anyway. It wasn’t much, just a couple of euros worth, but she was so appreciative and it was just what she needed, kind of like the way I felt the night before with the meal.
It’s so hot here, haven’t these people heard of air conditioning? Everyone is walking around sweating gobs and they don’t seem to care. And then there’s those few, that walk around and don’t sweat at all and look as if they’re cool and it’s no problem. I really despise those people.
After nursing my new blisters and the new blisters on top of the day old blisters, I settled in for another night in the big city.