Monday, June 12, 2017

Paris, France - insane on the Seine

In his 2010 novel, "The Map and the Territory", the dubious French author Michel Houellebecq described how, by 2035, all of France will have become nothing but a theme park for tourists. An increasingly believable prediction, with the caution that it may be a fait accompli as early as 2020. However, even a theme park has a limit on the number of punters in the park at any one time, not so with tourists - short of total gridlock, they continue to arrive in ever increasing numbers. The sidewalks of the 5th Avenue of Paris, the Champs Elysee, were practically at a standstill with a slurry of humanity concentrating on staying vertical while clutching their valuables to ward off the well advertised pick-pockets. The joys of this wonderful city seem long gone.
In all of our previous European trips we have heeded the advice of more experienced travelers and avoided the second half of July and the whole of August. These are the weeks that Europe effectively shuts down and, with their generous six weeks allowance, takes a long vacation. So here we were, on August 10, being bused 180 miles from Le Havre to spend just four hours in Paris. To make matters worse, the weather produced a windy 59 degree day, hopelessly unsuitable for shorts and summer attire. Dumped near one end of the Champs Elysee, more than a mile from any of the dozen or so "must see" Parisian attractions, we truly questioned our sanity. Teeth chattering and dreaming of 90 degree Florida days, we came up with a plan - a ride on a Hop-on Hop-off bus - how bad could it be?
The bus route was 2-1/2 hours per lap so hopping on and off was out of the question if we were to be back in time to catch the ride to Le Havre. Thus we resigned ourselves to a frigid rattle around on the open upper deck snatching a snap or two as opportunity permitted. Another miscalculation. Hordes of screaming, bratty kids, armies of morons leering oafishly up their selfie sticks blocking every available view, interminable stops at popular locations while the driver patiently explained in a variety of languages how the bus ride worked and all the while it seemed to get colder and colder. Finally we retreated to the lower deck and huddled miserably until our stop came up.
Here are a few glimpses hinting at the splendor of this most magnificent city.

No comments: