Sunday, July 15, 2007
Vive la révolution
Evidently someone is of the opinion that this pleasant-looking woman is in fact a 'salope' - bitch/whore
Notre Dame, no hunchback, don't even try to be funny
The Louvre, pyramid stylies. I don't want to hear anything about the Da Vinci Code, unless it is a ref to the eminently cool song "Da Vinci Claude"
"Shut up, you're an anti-semite!" Yes, that's right - I'm talking to YOU! Protest in the Tuileries
"Teehee!" Statue in the Tuileries
"Naked in public again! It's just a bad dream, it's just a bad dream, it's just..." Statue in the Tuileries
The fountain in the Place de la Concorde - choked with bandstands and stuff for Bastille Day when I was there
Tain't that romantic...
A Neptune turning away from the Tour
The Alexander III bridge, with what I think is Les Invalides in the background (?)
Statue on the Alexander III bridge with the Eiffel Tower lurking away in the background, as is its wont
NZ makes an appearance at the Bastille Day fête
The gates into Sarko's new home
Supposedly the only MacDo in the world where the arches ain't golden - on the Champs-Elysees
The Arc de Triomphe with a very French-looking automobile
Surely there aren't too many times in one's life when a day off, Bastille Day, and a location 2 hours away from Paris by train all align in a stroke of cosmic good fortune, so it would have been silly for me not to have bravely struck out from the dot on the map that is Ebblinghem for the big city yesterday. I made like a fun-seeking missile, determined merely to fetch up in Paris and let my instincts guide me to the party. Apparently my instincts were off, or at least my timing was, because although there was in fact evidence of the parade down the Champs-Elysées, I was too late to catch it, and I had to hop the last train back to Hazebrouck at too early an hour for the Eiffel Tower-centred fireworks (stupid midsummer national holiday).
But even if Paris was abandoned to the hordes of tourists, I was still up for a good time - yea, the best sort of good time, the sort of good time that involves endless walking about in the blazing sun. It was supposed to hit about 30 degrees in Paris yesterday, and I can well believe that it did. On the train, the weather seemed to improve steadily as we neared Paris, and by the time I arrived at midday it was HOT HOT HOT. Despite applying sunblock, I even burned a little bit on my back, which is not something I do readily, so you know it was verily the opposite of frosty coldness.
As you probably know, and has been mentioned in the blog before, I am a fiend for hydration, and I calculated that yesterday I bought no fewer than 7 icy beverages, none of them alcoholic. With the bottle I took clutched in my fevered hand on my train journey, that's some 4 litres of water, and it would have been more too if I had had handy refreshment tables like in a marathon (if only). This sort of refreshment did not come cheap, however - after a long search for a decent-looking cafe off the main tourist streets, I just about fainted when I saw my lemonade was costing me 7 €. You'd better believe I didn't tip!
Fascinating as this is, I'm sure you're all champing at the metaphorical bit to know how I actually spent my day in Paris when I wasn't quaffing pricey drinks. As I said - walking. I started out with a metro ride to the Arc de Triomphe roundabout (where I saw some evidently suicidal tourists braving the overland route - dashing across multiple lanes of traffic on a roundabout with no fewer than 12 exits - insane!) and then walked the length of the Champs-Elysées towards the Place de la Concorde, veering off to check out the Pont Alexandre III, on to the Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre, then across Pont Neuf to the Ile de la Cité, home of Notre Dame and then up to the Centre Pom-pom-pidou! I had planned to take advantage of the free entry to the Pompidou in honour of Bastille Day, but alas I was not the only one with this bright idea, and queuing with 50 other people in a glass tunnel to get in quickly becomes insufferable in 30 degree weather, let me tell you. So I bailed and from there I wandered randomly on the left bank before dinner and calling it a day. Dinner was at a sidewalk cafe, where I uncomfortably dined alone, facing the traffic, serenaded by French people honking their horns - how very Parisian!
A note on the Tuileries - the last time I was in Paris I evidently approached the Louvre from an autre direction, because I'd never been before, but I'd always heard they were nice, and given the name 'garden' and their appearance on maps as a green oasis, I was expecting a pleasant place to escape from the heat for a bit. Could not have been more wrong! Don't be fooled, there is nothing remotely garden-like about the Tuileries - the 'oasis' is a cruel mirage, as they are in fact a desert of white sand-gravel stuff, blinding to the eyes, wearing to the feet, crushing to the soul. There were some nice water features though - I restrained myself from diving on in and restricted myself to a paddle, terminated when I noticed the odd dead-tadpoley-things in the water. Gross!
However, Paris is really a beautiful city, especially on a gorgeous sunny day like yesterday. The last time I was there I was in a bit of a funk, so I really didn't appreciate the experience, but this has restored my faith in Paris, so luckily enough I have another visit planned for early next month. It's a bit of a shame spontaneous outbreaks of patriotism weren't erupting all over the capital, but what are you going to do eh.
And, as my mum would say, my 'adventures' did not come to an end with my return to sleepy Hazebrouck. As my chauffeur Mike had to close the bar at 11, when my train was due in, I had to wait outside the station for about 20 minutes. About 10 minutes in I spotted someone approaching from the other side of the road, a pint of beer in one hand and a coffee cup in the other. Turned out the owner of the pub across the way had seen me and decided to take pity on me with a hot chocolate - how sweet! The moment was spoiled slightly when a woman subsequently came out and yelled at me for having the effrontery to transport my hot choc across state lines, but then the guy came back out and said effectively not to worry about what she thought. This is where he realised I wasn't French and launched into an excited conversation with me, which for the most part consisted of him saying how well I spoke French and me failing to understand most of the rest of what he had to say. But you couldn't blame me really, as the below translation of our conversation (English indicated by capitals) will reveal:
Hot Choc Man: [incomprehensible French (I.F)] LINUX, you know it? [I.F] I FUCK WINDOWS, do you understand? Do you know Linux? Oh, how to explain, I don't know in English... OPEN ACCESS [I.F.] MICROSOFT COMMERCIAL, you don't understand do you?
Me: I'm not very good with computers...
HCM: [mimes typing] "TO BE OR NOT TO BE? THAT IS THE QUESTION"
HCM: You speak French better than I speak English! You speak so well!
Me: Not really, I live here so I should speak better.
HCM: You live here! It's not possible!! If you lived here I would know you already!
The rest of the conversation was mostly comprehensible, but I would love to know where the 'to be or not to be' came in. Are there any closest Linux fans who can enlighten me? At any rate, Mike turned up in the middle of our conversation so it was goodbye to my new friend - who, by the way, was 'tu'-ing me (the familiar form of 'you', used for friends etc) all over the place. Fresh!
That was a lot of words to explain that I didn't do a lot of interesting stuff in my day in Paris. Hope y'all had a good Bastille Day too! (One last thing - they don't, as far as I can tell, actually say 'Bastille Day' [Jour du Bastille] or anything here - seems to go by 'Fête Nationale' [National Holiday] or simply 'le quatorze de juillet' [the fourteenth of July].) Okay, congrats if you made it to the end!