I notice that for some reason in some Web browsers, many of the photos in this entry appear sideways. I don’t know why, and I don’t have time at present to work on a fix.
Yesterday I was almost robbed — twice!–once in the metro (subway) and the second time in the street. As I mentioned yesterday, the metro can be very crowded, so crowded that people inside are squeezed together.
I had to take two subway trains this afternoon to get back to the hostel where I’m staying.. The picture below is a selfie that I took on the first train. It may look as if there is no one standing in the space directly behind me, but there are people there.
The second train was even much more crowded. We were so jammed together that there is no way I could have pulled my cell phone out of my pocket to take a selffie on that train. The attempted pickpocketing took place as I was squeezing off the train at my stop. I felt a tug at the left pocket of my cargo pants and looked down to see my passport bag hanging out by a cord that is attached to it. Someone had attempted to steal it, but luckily the fact that it was attached to me saved it.
The second robbery attempt was on my way home just after I had done some grocery shopping and was carrying a five euro note in my hand, because I didn’t want to pull my wallet out in the street. The note slipped from my hand, and by the time I turned around to retrieve it, someone had already snatched it. However, I was quick enough to see who the culprit was, and I yelled at him in French loud enough for everyone around use to hear, “Monsieur! That belongs to me!” He quietly handed me the note and kept walking without saying a word. I would like to think that the whole crowd would have been on top of him if he hadn’t, but in big cities people tend to ignore such incidents.
By the way, until I saw that selfie of me above, I hadn’t realized that my glasses look so huge. I did buy the largest frames I could find. I like to see well in all directions, and at my age, it would be useless to worry about my appearance. I look like an old man with or without glasses.
The first place I went this morning was Montparnasse, which is a neighborhood that is home one of Paris’ few real skyscrapers, shown below. It was named after the Greek mountain that was the home of the muses, because it once was a hill where artists and poets gathered, but the hill was leveled long ago, and Montparnasse ceased to be an artists’ hangout when World War II began. it’s now more of a business district.
The tower is a business center with several of the lower floors occupied by an elegant shopping center. I entered the shopping center and looked around, but I didn’t buy anything. The prices were too high.
If you want to dress in some expensive blue jeans and fake cowboy boots, bring your credit card to Western Heritage, located in the outdoor patio of the shopping center. However, expect to pay (very much) more than you would pay for a pair of jeans in the USA.
At the top of the Montparnasse Tower there is a viewing area where people can look out over the city, but I found the entrance fee at 20 euros (US $22.12 at today’s exchange rate) a bit steep. I have already had a panoramic view of Paris from the top of the Eiffel Tower on a previous trip.
After I left Montparnasse, I walked to the Eiffel Tower, about 1.5 miles away. I was not going to pay to ride to the top, of the Eiffel Tower either (been there, done that) but I was looking forward to walking though the lovely parkland that stretches southward from the Tower. I was disappointed. The whole park, I guess the British would call it a garden, was fenced off and surrounded by guards. Inside, there are giant TV screens on which the public can watch matches of the European Soccer Cup, which is currently taking place. The reason the fences are there is so that people can be checked for guns and bombs before entering. Some nutso would probably love to blow himself up in the large crowd in.side
Although I had no plans to fight the crowds to ride to the top of the Eiffel Tower, I was looking forward to a leisurely stroll under it between its four huge supporting columns. No such luck, to approach the Tower these days, you have to go through a security checkpoint. It didn’t seem worth the hassle. The white building in the following picture contains the two security checkpoints on the south side of the tower. As you can see, there is even double row of fencing separating the security checkpoints from the rabble outside.
I decided that I had had enough security screenings at airports, and I didn’t want to undergo another one. Standing in line waiting to be frisked and gone over with a metal detector is not my idea of a good vacation activity. I did take a picture looking up a the Eiffel Tower from outside the outer security fence.
From the Eiffel Tower, I walked across to the right bank of the Seine River to find a subway station to ride home, not knowing that I would have to deal with two robbery attempts on the way. As I walked across a pedestrian bridge, I snapped the following picture.
Since time immemorial, lovers have been locking padlocks to the railings of the bridges that cross the Seine and then throwing the key into the river. The idea was that their relationship or marriage would last forever, just as the padlock would remain locked to the bridge forever. Until about two years ago, there were millions of padlocks attached to the railings of the bridges. There were padlocks attached to padlocks, making them several layers deep. The weight was so great that the railings of several of the bridges threatened to collapse, so the city administrators ordered the padlocks cut off.
You can still attach a padlock to a bridge railing if you wish, but it won’t stay up long before a city worker cuts it off. In fact, the symbol of your eternal union may be gone before you have a chance to file your divorce papers.
Finally, below is a picture of the lobby of the youth hostel where I am staying during one of the rare moments when it was quiet and almost empty. They should drop the “youth” part of the name, because some of us staying here are pretty old. However, the whole lobby was jammed with kids in their early teens when I got back to the hostel today. A tour group of young South Africans was packed up and waiting to board the bus to leave Paris for the next stop.
I’m glad the kids had a chance to see Paris, but I’m also glad they are gone. Last night they were running up and down the halls screaming, and one of them set off the building’s fire alarm, which caused us adults to evacuate. The kids paid the alarm no mind.
The group was mixed back, white, and “colored,” which is the South African term for people of mixed race. It was good to see the kids having mixing with each other with no regard to skin color. That is an immense change from the days of apartheid.
If you like, you can read excerpts from some of the books I have written by clicking on a book’s cover image in the left sidebar.