Thursday, 11 July 2013

Au revoir, Paris

We're currently blitzing across France towards the coastal town of Biarritz on the TGV, France's high-speed rail service, which has existed since the 1970s.  We left Paris, with slight heavy hearts, at 10.25 this morning.  France is mostly flat, perfect for invading.

On our last evening in Paris, we strolled a few streets to the east of our hotel, bought baguettes, a chocolate tart and a lemon tart and a bottle of orange juice from a supermarket, and, to our delight, found the St Martin Canal.  Both banks of the canal were lined with Parisians sitting there, chatting to their friends with some food and some wine, some with their feet dangling above the water.  It was a pleasant atmosphere on a warm summer evening.  

A guy walked along the crowd, stopping to chat to people, and was obviously asking for money.  The moment he came to us, we waved him on quickly saying "Non, merci!  Non, merci!"  Paris has its fair share of homeless and sad cases.  In the blazing heat, they wear great big furry overcoats.  They need them for the winter, but have to wear them in the summer because they don't have storage facilities.  At the Eiffel Tower, the Sacre Coeur and on the Ile de la Cite, there are gypsy-like people who ask "Do you speak English?".  They have some sort of hand out with them, as though they want to draw your attention to some cause.  On the hand out, I caught a glimpse of the word 'Association', but we don't want to get involved with them, as it may give them a chance to pick your pocket.  At the Eiffel Tower, the gypsies were ordered to move on by not only the Gendarmes, but also the Police Nationale and the Army!  It probably goes to show how long we stood in the queue.  

The French are infinitely friendlier people than they were 30 years ago.  No one spoke English back then.  Lots of people who serve customers have at least a few words, and not merely the lift operators at the Eiffel Tower, who tell you 'keep going, keep going, keep going', but also those who sell you SIM cards, and the woman who takes your money when you pay to use the public toilet.  But, to be fair, maybe the French 30 years ago were the French equivalent of the English themselves, who have a long reputation of not learning other people's languages.  English is a great big international language.  So is French. But English has crept into French society.  There was a law that checked the encroachment of English into France, but you see it more and more.  McDonalds advertises its product 'McMorning', but, you know, if the McDonalds marketers like alliterations, they could just as easily have called the product 'McMatin'.  

By the way, prices:  it was 14 euros, 50 to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, or 8 to go to the 2nd level. It was 8.50 to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, and about the same to go to the top of the Sacre Coeur.

Our train has pulled in at Bordeaux.  We've been on the train now for three and a half hours, and have another two to go.
St Martin Canal

1 comment:

  1. Oh yeah - re the "gypsy-like" people you mention; Alicia & I were walking along 'the river' & came across this crew who were saying they just found an 18 carat gold ring & that we should take it.... scam city man. Later we heard that if you take it, they call the police & don't leave you until you pay them for the (fake) gold ring... glad to hear that you didn't come across this one. :-)