Saturday, November 17, 2007


I finally get to Paris, and they've gone on strike. Wretched French. Were it just me I wouldn't mind so much, but I have an Aged Parent with me, and she's not a great walker. We had thought to do Paris mainly by Metro and taxi, but with the strike, the Metro isn't running and empty taxis are nowhere to be found. We took a three mile trip from the Eiffel Tower (which was splendid) to our hotel at Gard du Nord (which was chosen for its convenience to public transportation!!) and not only did it cost us 50 euro and nearly two hours, but we ended up walking the last four blocks to boot.

We also thought of taking the hop on/hop off tour bus to get us to the sights and so gave that a whirl. Great idea in theory, lousy in practice. The "30 minutes max" buses took a good hour or more sometimes because they were caught in the same gridlock as the taxis and commuters.

Plus, the museums are closing early or are partly closed because of the strike. I went back to the Louvre specifically to do the second floor (I had done the first one the day before) and only after I bought my ticket did I discover that the second floor was closed because of the strike. No staff. The Musee d'Orsay closed two hours early so staff could get home... so I saw practically nothing, because it was late afternoon by the time we got there. I am Cross and Annoyed of course, but what can one do? C'est la vie.

I will say this, though -- the Aged Parent is a very good sport. She's got her stout boots and her cane and she's giving it her best shot. And doing all right, I might add. Slow, but steady. And the stick is a great help to us both -- I got an off-duty taxi driver to take us up by waving it at him and pleading pathetically in bad French and hand gestures. Hey, if you've got it, use it. C'est la guerre.

The trip is not a total bust, though. When we do get a taxi they take the round-about ways that are most likely to avoid the worst of the traffic, so we get a great tour of Paris' streets. We've also ducked into some fine places and sat on some swell benches in odd places so that Mother can have a rest. The Parisians are amazingly, unexpectedly, nice. My bad French is taken in good part, and they are happy to speak slowly to me in a cross of French and English ... yes, I feel like a half-wit, but I'm managing to get around all right. I can even crack jokes with the cabbies. The evening I sent mother home and stayed to see the Louvre again, I walked the two or so miles back and had a splendid jog through town -- I felt perfectly safe and rather enjoyed it. And of course with transport being as it is, I've been treated to the spectacle of grandmas on bicycles and businessmen in suits and roller blades... where else could you see such a sight? C'est la grève.

So I'm going to try to extend my stay by a few days. They say the strke will be over on Tuesday, so if I hang out a few more days I may get to see some of the more outlying parts of the city. Wish me luck -- can't get hold of the airline, since the office is closed until Monday. Probably, like everything else, due to the strike.
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