Friday, 31 August 2012

Day 23 - Paris and Lovers

Sue and I had avoided being trapped into the many opportunities to show our love for one another by doing the many things designed for lovers to do in this romantic city. Our logic was pretty much along the lines that just by being here, by dedicating twenty percent of our time away from Australia just to Paris, we were expressing that love. Besides, I have many times told the world of our complex but amazingly deep love for one another and Sue shows it just by staying!

That said, on our last day in Paris, we donated the afternoon to the pursuit of the lovey dovey stuff.

First we had to attend to housekeeping, so we picked up Sue's suitcase, which had to be hand stitched to repair the blow out caused by too much being expected of it. By the time we reached Paris, it looked as if it was four months pregnant. The 5kg baby was delivered to the local post office to be dispatched back to Australia. Wasn't that an experience! We were given nothing except two forms to fill in, all in French and sent to one side of the post office whilst other customers were served. When we had just about conquered the forms, another lady came along, admitted she spoke English and gave us a duplicate set of forms in English! I gave up after sending the parcel and fear Sue's suitcase may never see its baby again.

We had postcards in our hands but they'll have to wait until England.

Blah, blah, blah.

Locked together until the key is found
After lunch, we took the Metro to the Louvre and made the short walk to Pont d'Arts where thousands and thousands of lovers have attached engraved padlocks to the bridge safety rails and thrown the keys into the Seine, signifying that they will stay locked in love until the keys are found. The French like to claim the tradition but it's modern beginning (early naughties) relates to a book by Italian Fredrico Moccia, I Love You and resulted in padlocks appearing on the Pont Milvio in Rome. Serbia can trace the tradition back to before WWII with padlocks causing a pedestrian bridge to be renamed in Vrnja─Źka Banja, Most Ljubavi (Bridge of Love). There are three ponts in Paris who have padlocks attached but Pont d'Arts has been the main one and the most controversial. In 2010, after complains by Parisians, all the locks disappeared overnight but neither government or protesting groups claimed responsibility. A huge outcry has meant no further removals have occurred.

On the Pont d'Arts
This afternoon, in the bright sunshine, the mostly gold locks glistened like tinsel as we jockeyed for a position to apply ours. This was done, location noted and pictures taken as best we could. When the time came to drop the keys over the side, we assumed it was a straight drop into the water. A click revealed they had fallen only to floor level on the metre wide walkway on the outside of the safety fence. Unable to reach them and unwilling to upset the police by climbing the rail, our love had hit a snag that 33 years had hither to avoided! After half a dozen people gathered round and offered advice in three different languages, I rolled up our map into a long poker and managed to tip the keys into a crack. To our dismay, the keys were sitting on the metal cross beam which held the walkway! This chain of circumstances was developing a Langston flavour to it. Eventually, by lying on the deck of the bridge and poking away with my, by now destroyed map, I managed to poke the keys to their oblivion. 

Original ... what else would you expect?

We laughed about it all afternoon. Met a nice Aussie couple on the bridge. He opened the conversation with "G'day mate. What's the bloody story with all the padlocks?" We love it here but gee it was nice to hear the Aussie accent again.

Stopped for a nice romantic cafe in a place beside the Louvre and overlooking the Seine. Drank whilst watching four lanes of manic traffic instead, bumper to bumper, all on horns. This was our next to last look at the centre of Paris.

Getting adept on the Metro, we changed lines a few times getting to Abbesses, at the foot of La Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmarte ... otherwise known as the best sunset view in Paris. Walking through Abbesses - more of those small lanes filled with shops and restaurants/cafes, we reached the Funiculaire Montmarte, a small electric cable car which helps you avoid most of the 300 steps to the top. Of course, no one mentions the 151 steps on the spiral staircase up from the Metro station! I was immediately set upon by one of the String Men of Scare Coeur. He had a string on my finger before I knew it and was beginning his braiding work, all the time reassuring me he was African (and therefore not a gypsy) and "don't worry be happy." It took me 30 seconds to adjust and I dismissed him and left him with his string. Apparently, another 15 seconds and the string would have been attached and he and his mates gathering around me demanding payment.

Shay-men everywhere.

Up at the Basilique, the view is sensational but again, as only the French could do, missing from the view behind trees is the Eiffel Tower. People are everywhere, crawling like minga over dead flesh. It was wall to wall humanity to get into the church so we didn't bother. Its an amazing building but again, like Gustav's tower, it has been the source of controversy, built politically to commemorate a disastrously lost war and religiously to place a church presence in a communist community.

Too many people for us, all jostling for the sunset position. Taking advantage of the empty restaurants below, we dined on a three course meal which included a wonderfully rich beef bourgenoun. 

We have developed the habit, when we say something in English, of saying it again in French. Sue hit her hand hard n the table during dinner and utter the word "shit" loud enough for the waiter to turn his head, attentively. On automatic, she followed it with "merde" before realising it might have been better to have left it at English.

We were home on the Metro, ignoring the strangers like the best of Parisians. Its worth it. On Fridays, the musicians come out and we watched a seven or eight voice all male Russian group and then two girls who sang pleasantly to guitar and keyboard ... just perched in the passenger tunnels as one walks to and from a train.

There are so many things which conflict about this place. The food is cheap but beggars are easy to find. There are police everywhere but the gypsies still ply their trickery with annoying ease. Everyone is perfectly groomed, yet men pee in the street and Metro tunnels whilst Parisians walk by. You can smell urine in the passenger tunnels of the less active stations. 27 million people must bring billions of dollars to Paris, yet wages are so poor that teachers, among the better paid of the white collar workers, earn only $2000AUD a month.

Last day based in Paris tomorrow. Antone sick of it yet?

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