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France and it's pitfalls.

France is great, but let's no focus to strongly on all the positives......

eyelids look heavy as I survey the subdued faces, I've taken everyone through the itinerary, given as much insight into traveling Europe as is feasible given the zombie state of the group. We arrive in Dover, welcomed by the chalky white cliffs topped by the mighty Dover castle, the sun is shimmering off the water as the ferry's billow smoke into the sky.

we board the boat on our chariot and I can see faces of concentration as I go through the procedures for the ferry crossing, everyone seems to be thinking really hard about not needing to pee, with the rapidity kentucky derby race commentator, I tell everyone when to be back at the bus, and am sure to remind them, that if they aren't back on the bus when we drive off it, they should meet us in Paris.

France is amazing, if you really want to annoy a Frenchy, tell them that following the 100 years war, the French should have occupied what is now England the the Brits should have aquired Gaul! It is so varied and diverse in it's geographical makeup, The French alps and the Cote D azzur provide a suitable contrast while Paris, Lourdes, Lyon and Avignon enjoy legendary culture status with the the role played by each city in respect of religion, warfare or societal changes that have affected the course of history.

French people are often labelled ignorant or arrogant, this can be particularly true of Parisians. Paris is the most popular tourist destination in the world, with over 27 million people visiting the city each year, 60 percent of which are coming from outside of France. The urban population is around 2 million, meaning that, at any one time during the year, the inner city population is doubled by tourists, most of them not speaking French, This is why many local's in popular tourist destinations around Europe have a short fuse when dealing with visitors.

In my humble experience, I have found the Parisians to be quite accommodating, provided you are prepared to speak with a bit of an accent and try a few french words, you should find yourself endearing yourselves to the locals, if you can't speak French, you should act like you do. The french have given us many things including food based idiom and many other colloquialisms, I've heard the French often remark of their love for English seeing as so much of it is indeed French.

They love their food and wine and have a great way of going about their social agenda's without being thrown in to a plethora of denigrating socio economic statistics. Dispite their reputation for indulgent cooking, and their penchant for wine consumption, they fair a lot better than the UK in binge drinking and obesity as well as alcohol related crime. A redeeming feature I certainly admire of the French is their capacity for moderation.

It is true that they are very fashionable, fashion designers like Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton are all found in snooty department stores worldwide and each with their headquarters in Paris. For some reason, Parisian women love to wear black and not much else, have incredibly proportionate and elegant bone structure but try and ask a pleasant looking women for the time off her visible wrist watch and she will look at you like you just insulted her late mother.

My passengers would often ask me if we needed to speak French to get by in Paris, I would tell them that it is the most popular place in the world for foreign tourists and that the locals have adapted to accommodate the many visitors. I was often met by the same passengers at the end of the day carrying shopping bags full of loot donning wearisome expressions that suggested my description of French helpfulness had been somewhat inaccurate.

The French language is very delicate, there are institutions in place to make sure it remains free from transliterate laziness and adheres to the grammatical statutes of old. I find the language over bearing at times, although mellifluous, it seems like the type of language that would have been spoken by Narcissus himself, it all sounds so utterly vainglorious at times.

The concomitants of this ego driven articulation together with conquests and colonies enjoyed by Frances many great leaders, spawned the very nature of the French in their impossibly proud nature. It isn't as if we're inferior, we're just not French.

Posted by Eurotourguide 06:05 Comments (0)

PARIS

a lovely city,

It has a relentlessness about it, cool stuff everywhere, all entangled in some of histories most epic moments, an orgy of design and pomp. It also has a relentless bustle and impatience about it akin to any big city. foot traffic is pacy, the metro is packed, fast and confusing, smart cars, scooters and cyclists take varying lengths of consideration into running most red lights.

It is epic, few cities truely come across this way, in both scale, function and design, Paris has a certain feel to it that seems to draw endlessly from Frances penchant for Glory and conquest.

200 years ago, it was a mess, festering pools of animal waste congealed the veins of the medi evil streets, tanneries would throw implausibly fetid excreta into the streets as if it were disinfectant and people were none to shy about squatting or squirting in the narrow passageways, Versailles palace was noted for a whopping 20,000 or so residents and visitors and a mere 2 toilets. Drunken Parisians falling over in the streets gave birth to the term 'shit faced' as one would not always be guaranteed a dry landing spot when buckling over in a moment of inebriation.

The sewers needed attention, poo salvation would come in the form of Baron Van Haussman, a man left with the responsibility of cleaning up the streets. What he did was revolutionary, albeit controversial as he leveled much of the old medi evil city to make way for wide radiating avenues and his sewerage system. He bolstered the cities defendability, Viking pillages in the past saw Paris sacked many times during the dark ages, by making the streets very wide and very long, brigades were able to cannonade the enemy from distance.

The effects of his design were not limited to pragmatic defense, he also set about creating two amazing lines of symmetry, which are best viewed from the 2nd level of the Eiffel Tower. One line of symmetry starts from the eyeball of a horse, mounted by the sun king Louis the X1V in the courtyard of the Louvre, it passes beneath the Arc De Triomphe du Carousel which once held the Quadriga of the Brandenburg Gate on it during Napolean's time.

This Arc is the smallest of 3 and is situated in the Jardin de Tuilleries. The line continues through to Place de la Concorde in perfect alignment with the obelisk of luxor (Paris' oldest monument), the line continues all the way up the Champs Elysses beneath the Arc Du Triopmph until it reaches its final destination in the CBD of Paris beneath the Grand Arc. What makes this line of symmetry awesome is the fact that the 3 arcs are able to absorb the next one into its own bodice, so the grand arc can eat the Arc de Triomphe which can eat the arc in the tuilleries garden!

The other line of symmetry cuts across place de la Concorde, again using the obelisk as it's focal mid point, and provides a mirror image of two identically designed building facades, the Eglise de Madeline and the National assembly, both the triangular pediments and columns on the facades are identical.

The city owes much of it's skyline success to it's favorite son's, or omnipotent French Monarchs who commissioned buildings of grandeur and splendor, to house histories greatest religious relics, or play host to some of histories greatest stories. here is a list of my favorite buildings / sites in Paris.

Opera de Garnier - Charles Garnier who also designed the Grand Casino in Monte Carlo..

Eglise Du Dome - Louis X1V - sun king who commissioned this building as a private chapel, now the resting place of Napolean.

Pompidou centre - Named after French president George Pompidou, the building boasts a unique inside out design, where materials usually hidden away are give prominence in the exterior.

Musee D'orsay - An old train station that has been converted into one of Paris' best art museums.

Louvre - means block house, and started it's life as a fort, has since been converted into the 2nd largest museum in the world. (1st is Hermitage, St Petersburg)

Notre Dame - not the biggest gothic cathedral in the world, but certainly one of the most awe inspiring, what I like is the explanation inside the church as to how on earth they built the thing at the turn of the 11th century.

Austerlitz column (Rue Royale) - This column was inspired like so many others around Europe by Trajans column in Rome, what impresses me about this one, is it was made using cannons confiscated off Austrian soldiers after they were defeated at Austerlitz, the cannons were melted down to make the column in which Napolean stands triumphantly atop it dressed in a Toga, you will also find the Ritz hotel in this square which is where the last footage of Princess Diana was taken.

Posted by Eurotourguide 08:10 Comments (0)

paris bus tour

bit of Paris info.

We would barrel around Paris on the coach with the guests turning the bus into a mobile strobe light. I would be on the mic calling out everything I could see on either side of the chariot, “on your right is the chatelet district, and on your left you will see a gang of poodles group shitting, the owner is oblivious as you can see, distracted by her cigarette smoke, and very unlikely to pick up after her mutts, I enjoy this particular filler in a driving tour, about how people should be very careful when traipsing around Paris.

The city is streets are full of animal egesta, for all Paris’ lustre and beauty it is marred by the faecal crumbs of the million or so dogs that stroll the city daily, it can be like be like playing rugby sidestepping the poo mounds. Paris does have a very active clean squad who hose down the citiy streets and rid it of rubbish, money wise, they put a lot into keeping the streets nice.

We pull in to the Trocadero, which is one of the best places to take a snap of the giant phallus aka the Eifel - temporary structure that few people in Paris liked initially, the Mayor apparently used to take lunch under it everyday in protest of its repugnant outrageousness, when asked, why there? he replied 'it's the one place I can eat my lunch and not see this thing'. I’m always sure to balance the weight of excitement against the need to be back on the coach promptly, no one knows this more so than the driver. I tell the group we have 10minutes to grab some pics, scare tactics seem to bring out the urgency in people, so I tell them that we don't have a permit to park and so can only stay here 10 mins– I know in my mind that it will be 20minutes at least before I can even consider counting everyone up.

It’s funny how every single group is never, ever on time for this regrouping, more painful still is the irksome wait for one or two passengers who have been sucked in to a street performance or an ideal photo op failing to keep track of time and everyone else. I have on only one occasion left a couple of pax at the Trocadero, after an extra 15 minutes of waiting for them and putting our departure minus them - to a democratic coach vote.

We see the city of lights in the best way possible, Baroque buildings, classical palaces, statues and Gothic cathedrals are draped in light and reflect off the Seine, another driving tour dusted I'm thinking in my mind, at the end of the tour I stir up the guests to give a resounding show of appreciation to undies, who is calm and collect as we storm back. I'm liking this guy undies.

I like working with English drivers, never short of a banter. It makes life immensely better if you have a driver you can get on with. There is nothing worse than sharing a 10 hour drive day with someone you don’t like. Undies was gold, a 60 something Cockney, born and bred in East London, a family man who shared most of my own opinions about our passengers, should be a good tour this one I thought.

Drivers and guides have a separate mandate but a unified goal, some drivers limit their services to loading the bus, driving the bus, parking the bus, cleaning the bus, admiring the bus and talking at great length about the bus in general. Other drivers are more than happy to mix in with the passengers and be social on nights where they don’t need to drive the next day. undies was partial to a coffee and a fag, so when we parked up this night, we went to a charming local tabac to enjoy a cafe creme, chuff a cancer stick and look forward to a good tour.

Posted by Eurotourguide 03:05 Archived in France Tagged paris Comments (0)

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