Made a list of things to and places to go so the week would have some semblance of a plan. First stop – Notre Dame.
I thought it would be a lot taller building. I don’t know why but I did. Everything looks bigger on tv I guess. What it may lack in height it more than makes up for in overall size. It’s immense. I did the quick walkthrough tour following the river of people who flow in and out of the cathedral all day. I had my first aha moment of the trip. People. Lots of people.
Someone placed a broom on the statue of Charlemagne which sits right outside the cathedral. I don’t know if there was any significance to broom and the man who united the Franks. In my American mind all I can hear in my head is the Steely Dan song : Kid Charlemagne which has a great guitar break by the way.
And then a stunning collision of technologies old and new. In the Notre Dame crowd are three people wearing backpacks with balloons attached and floating over their heads. The balloons say ” Free Wi- Fi.” I believe it’s pronounced wee – fee over there or maybe not. These kids are mobile wi-fi stations and all you have to do is stand near them and probably sign up for something and poof – you’re connected.
Lots of people. There are people everywhere. Shuffling through Notre Dame and later through The Louvre was like being on a crowded subway platform at rush hour. No walking, just shuffling. I’m starting to suffer from people overload.
I saw Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory and so much more that I can’t remember everything. I expected The Louvre to be a quiet and serene place where I could experience great art. Instead, it was noisy and raucous with people everywhere all moving in sort of the same direction and not at the same time.
It was crazy. Thousands of people all talking at the same time. So much for quiet reflection. While I did see some of the world’s greatest masterpieces I left the Louvre with my head spinning. Too much static to be able to appreciate anything.
On this particular Sunday the Tour de France entered Paris for the final stage and the route for the first lap crossed right in front of The Louvre.
It was very exciting to see the Tour in all it’s glory. Dozens of police cars, motorcycles and support vehicles all preceding the racers. They sprinted past us in about 30 seconds and headed toward the Arc d’ Triomphe and more of the race.
In the crowd I met a couple from California who were house swapping with a family from Paris. These folks were retired and planned to spend 6 weeks in Paris. Chatted with some kids from Ohio who were on a school trip.
So the racers zoom by and I’m thinking ” Is that all there is?” At that moment there is a flyover by nine jets of the French Air Force which since my back was to them I never saw coming. Wow.
Finally back in our district for a quiet dinner. We were party to a humorous argument between an American tourist and a French waiter. It went something like this:
American – ( speaking in pretty awful French) I ordered a meal with Alfredo sauce. Alfredo sauce is white. This has red sauce on it.
Waiter – ( speaking in equally awful English) Yes, you want sauce no? Is Alfredo.
A – Alfredo means white sauce not red.
W – Is sauce no?
A – Alfredo IS sauce but not red.
W- Alfredo is cheese? At this point I think that the waiter is telling the American that his son’s name is either Alfredo or Cheese.
A – #$**##.