Last week was a bad week for me. I was on the verge of tears every day and don't know why...just one of those weeks, I guess. Everything eventually came to a head on Friday afternoon when I got a call from Katie. I won't go into details here, but we had a bit of a scare that you can read about on her blog
. I would have lost it completely that day if not for a certain friend. He came to the rescue by calming my fears and making me laugh inspite of my tears. Yeah, you know who you are...thanks...... :)
Anyway, after last week, I decided it was time for a much lighter post, so I decided to write about my trip to Paris. Now this isn't going to be your typical post about Paris, not the kind you'd expect anyway. Au contrere, mon amies, I am going to talk about one of my most memorable experiences. Sure, the cobblestone streets were beautiful and the old architecture was grand and the monuments were breathtaking, but there was so much more to it than that...there was the totally unexpected..... :)
We walked our butts off all week, covering miles of convention floor talking to people until the day before we came home. That morning was reserved for sightseeing. We left the hotel early and went in search of a "real" breakfast...not easy to find in Paris. They eat continental-style breakfasts that consist of a tiny cup of espresso and a baggette (pastry). Well, after a week of that, this Texan wanted something more substantial, like eggs and meat. We finally found a little cafe that served real breakfasts, but the cook didn't come in until 0800, so we had to wait 20 minutes. We sat at a table on the sidewalk outside and watched the Parisiens hoofing it to work...and believe me, they hoof it. Even using the transit system involves lots of walking...from metro (subway) stations to train stations with multi-levels of trains going in different directions...and then standing up for a 30 minute train ride to your destination. I know why I didn't see any really obese people over there...the walking keeps the pounds off. I swear, we walked 5 to 10 miles every day. That and the fact that the only snack I ever saw anyone eating was bread. Yeah, all the Frenchies carried a loaf of bread with them. You'd see the loaves in sacks under their arms, sticking out the top of a backpack, hanging out of a purse, in a shopping bag...you get the idea. And people would just tear off a chunk and eat it whenever and wherever they got hungry.
Anyway, back to breakfast. While we sat there watching people rush to work and school, we couldn't help but notice all the trash that had been thrown down along the street...it was really bad...and there were trash containers every 20 feet. Well, street cleaners came along in their bright green suits and started cleaning it all up. They had their little brooms and would turn on water outlets that ran along the street and pretty much washed everything down the drain. They were "allegedly" sweeping up the big stuff into bags, but we watched cigarette packs run down the street into the drains. It made me wonder where all that crap was going. And I do mean crap...dog crap...it was everywhere, too, and was washed away with the trash. Okay, I should explain to you that we didn't stay in the fancy part of town where everything is spotless. We stayed in the Montmartre District not far from the Moulin Rouge...an interesting area with much more colorful characters..... :) Needless to say, we laughed about the street cleaners while we ate our omelettes.
After breakfast, we headed for Notre Dame cathedral...which was very big and very nice, but personally, I liked the Sacre Ceour cathedral better. It was smaller and more personal and had a beautiful painting of Jesus on the back wall. From Notre Dame, we crossed the Seine River and walked past the Louvre, through Tulienaries Park, past this famous fountain in a famous square that I can't remember the name of, past the obelisk, down the Champs Elysees, and on to the Arche de Triomphe. Along the way, we heard siren after siren and wondered what was going on...it seemed so un-Paris-like and more like Chicago. When we got to the Arche de Triomphe, we found out what the sirens were all about. As we approached the monument, we noticed alot of people on top of it holding some kind of huge banner. (Look close and you can see the banner and a few people at the top of this picture.)
My boss commented that it was probably protestors, as France was full of them. We had already encountered a couple of protests earlier in the week. Anyway, when we got to the monument, there were police cars everywhere, as well as paddy wagons, and four policemen were blocking the underground entrance to the monument. We watched for a while, wondering what to do next. We'd walked a long way to get there...miles as a matter of fact...and I wanted to know what was going on. So, I walked up to the four policemen at the entrance and asked if any of them spoke English. To my surprise, this young man got a huge smile on his face and said, "I speak English (huge emphasis on the I)." So I asked him what was going on. He said it was a protest. I said, "I can see that, but what are they protesting?" His answer..."Archaeologies." I stood there looking at him for a minute trying not to laugh out loud and finally asked, "Why are they protesting archaeologies?" He said, "They are protesting that they haven't had work for two years." Okay, that made it really clear...not!! Then, with a huge smile on his face again, he said, "They'll come down in an hour or two so you can come back then." Well, after talking to him for a while longer, I had to have a picture of him and his buddies. When I told him that I wanted to take their picture, he got another huge smile on his face and said something to his buddies in French and they all turned towards me. Then, as I got ready to snap the picture, he said, "Say cheese." What a hoot!!! (The guy I talked to is second from the left in the picture...don't they look like cowboys???)
I'm telling you, that was better than any plain ol' visit to a monument. Thanks to the protestors and the policemen, I had a priceless memory, a great story to tell, and pictures to boot..... :) It doesn't get any better than that!!!