Une Démonstration

Paris: Magnificent and dirty. Maybe it gets cleaned up for the tourists before the summer but now, at the end of winter, the streets are full of litter, cigarette butts and ‘unmentionables’ – not everyone picks up after their dog.

Magnificent buildings, especially the ones that have been cleaned. Many are still filthy. London has done much better cleaning up buildings after the industrial revolution. They are so beautiful when the colour of the stone is like new instead of black from smoke and soot.

I was reminded in multiple instances that I’m not a city gal. Parisians walk very fast, staring straight ahead, ears plugged with wires and no connection with anyone around them – although I learned to ‘play the old lady’ and was then given a seat on the Metro. Being on my feet all day I welcomed every opportunity to sit down.

The weather has been variable, wind and rain some days, one day of warm sunshine, one day exceptionally cold – it was hard to know what to wear that would see me through each day. Going out in wind and rain for a while and then going home is very different from being out in it all day.

While fast food is available, one doesn’t have to search far for good food and wine and I have very much enjoyed my food explorations. All the exercise of up and down stairs and walking for miles has prevented any negative consequences.

I managed to make the hotel booking we were hoping for even though I found they don’t usually take groups. It’s a charming place with a large courtyard with a garden off the street and so peaceful, which is what will be very welcome after each day exploring the city.

I have been using Rick Steves’ guidebook, Paris 2016, which is extraordinarily good, with tours of the museums and walking tours of the different parts of Paris. I see no reason to struggle on my own when he has already done the work and is very thorough.

On the last day I visited places I needed to go to but had missed, either from being just too tired or cold and wet. Coming out of the Metro at Le Petit Palais, which I needed to check for a lunch spot, I saw a large demonstration outside which I know should be avoided. The ‘smoke’ I saw made me think of tear gas. But I wanted lunch so I asked a group of policemen what was going on. They smiled and said it was a demonstration by the police for more money! So there was no tear gas, only smoke from a torch-like feature and I worked my way around them all and into the museum for a peaceful lunch. All I kept hearing was how tired they were from working long hours. No doubt there was lots more, but that was what I could translate.

I have gradually become more confident with the French language after many years of non-use, but just in time to leave Paris and come to Holland to visit friends in their beautiful home. I hope it comes back more quickly when I return in September.

I’m enjoying this respite in Holland before leaving for Madrid on Tuesday and then Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

The Dutch in general are so sane and sensible and clean and…and…