Saturday, March 26, 2011

France 2011 - Paris

Paris was just a quick stop on the way home, but it is such a beautiful city that even one day was a great opportunity for taking pictures. As I mentioned in the Lyon portion of the trip, I love how the cities are built along the rivers, and how the waterfront is a magnet for activity. Look at the huge number of pedestrians on the bridge.

This gentleman was just enjoying the river and the early morning traffic.

In addition to having a nice day for walking, it appears that Paris has been enjoying a warm sunny spring. Things were blooming everywhere.

And if you didn't find the real blooms, you could enjoy the beautifully painted apartments along a little cobblestone street. It was tucked away in a little residential area north of Gare Lyon.

Across the street there was a painting of a cat leaping at birds fleeing a bird house. The bird house was real, sitting on the window ledge.

One of the things that makes Europe so different from the US is the transportation system. In Paris there are at least a half dozen major train stations, in addition to a very extensive Metro service. Anything is a day trip, even London.

Why all the trains? Because space is at such a premium that there is no place to park. One way to cope is to drive tiny cars.

But most people just seem to be masters at parallel parking. I saw many examples of people quickly parking a car in a space I would have never considered, and I'm not bad at parallel parking. Of course, they cheat a little with their willingness to tap the cars in front and behind them.

When we got into town Saturday afternoon, there was a huge protest march going on. Someone heard it was the Communist Party, but I think it was more like the Teacher's Union. These "protesters" were the most calm, passive, uninvolved people you could imagine. Other than an occasional person yapping through a bullhorn, everyone was just out for a walk with friends on a nice day. Just the same, there were thousands of them.

I just can't resist these things. When I saw someone handing out flags to carry, I took one and walked along in protest for 5 or 10 minutes. I eventually gave my flag to someone else and went on my way. Wish I knew what I was fighting for.

On Sunday, the mob was very different. A well organized rollerblading group came by. They were closing down the streets as they went, much like you would see for a running race. However, it seemed more like 2,000 rollerbladers out enjoying each others company and the excellent weather instead of any competition.

On Sunday, the residential parks were full of children and their parents. They were dressed quite nicely and it seemed like a wonderful neighborhood gathering.

Apparently they start soccer pretty young, although this is clearly a hand violation.

I prefer to shoot pictures away from all the tourist stuff, but I do love Sacre' Coeur. Apparently, so did everyone else in Paris. The view from the hill top was awesome and the crowds were amusing. Notice the statue at the bottom of the stairs.

Not a real statue. Just one of the numerous inventive ways people have found to perform (beg) for money. He was pretty good at standing still, emotionless, until someone put money in his cup.

Just down the hill, the big money maker was a version of the shell game. They had three black disks, one of which had a white spot on the bottom. You bet money and tried to guess which one had the spot. These guys were GOOD and it seemed like a very well organized shell-mafia. After 20 minutes, stopping by each of the numerous games going on, I realized how many people in the crowd were part of the "team". They would bet big and win big, so others would see how easy it is. I would find the same people down the street doing the same thing at another table.

The picture isn't very good, but as soon as I pulled out my camera and clicked once, several members of the crowd stepped forward and told me to stop or to lose my camera. They weren't kidding, so I left.

I always made fun of the little pay-toilet cans you find on the city streets, until I needed one. They are actually quite handy.

And we'll end with a view of the Notre Dame cathedral. It's a few blocks from our hotel. It represents a collection of what I like about Paris. It is surrounded by the river (on an island). It has a gorgeous complex architecture, built 1,000 years ago. And it's a gathering spot for people, who just want to be out and see things.

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