Paris, France Tuesday May 9, 2016 (second post of today)

I’m taking the train to Grenoble, France early tomorrow morning, which is where I spent two semesters studying at a university 12 years ago. Normally I write my posts in the morning, but I have an early train to catch tomorrow, which will not leave me time to write.

My fitness watch is happy with me, because I walked more than eight miles yesterday. I started here at the hostel where I am staying on the outskirts of Paris and walked to the Louvre Museum, stopping at the Notre Dame Cathedral on the way. As you will see in the pictures, it was a sunny day and warm enough to get by with a light jacket or sweater.

The first noteworthy place I came to was the Place de la Bastille, the place where the angry citizens are said to have stormed the Bastille prison at the start of the revolution. The Bastille itself seems to be long gone. I took the picture of the monument that commemorates it, because it is under renovation, and it appears that the work is being financed by a private company in return for putting its name on the outside of the scaffolding. I think the company needs the publicity. Did you ever hear of Vueling Airlines before you saw this picture? I googled it and learned that it is a low-cost airline based in Spain. If I hadn’t seen the company’s name painted here, I would never have known that it existed.

I believe that the idea of having private enterprises fund the renovation of public works may be a good one. In the United States, much of our infrastructure is rotting away for lack of public money. Many of our politicians at the national and state levels run on a platform of reducing taxes, especially those of the wealthy, so government is short of money. Private companies could pick up the slack.

From the Place de la Bastille I walked to the Seine River and took the following picture from a bridge.

As I walked away from the river, I ran into these two guys riding horseback. Wait a minute! I didn’t see them yesterday! That picture is from a very bad dream I had last night. In my dream, I thought the second rider was Donald Trump, but now I see that it can’t be him. The guy isn’t fat and flabby enough to be Trump. The second body seems to be that of Putin’s twin brother with Trump’s head photo-shopped on.

The reason I took the following picture is because Paris is the only city I know of where there are still people out sweeping the streets with straw brooms. In some of the hillier sections of Paris, they clean the gutters by turning on a valve that lets water run down them. Then they follow with a broom to sweep up anything that the water doesn’t wash away. Despite the swarms of tourists tossing their trash around, these guys keep much cleaner than most cities are. I wish one of them would sweep the street in front of my house where the kids walking to and from school toss their candy bar wrappers and homework papers.

I left the street sweeper to his job and farther on I came upon these guys on a pedestrian bridge that links two islands in the middle of the river. They were playing some real shit-kickin’ music. I would not categorize their style as typically French.

The white squares in the violin case are CDs that they had for sale. There was only one bicycle parked beside them. I assume that it wasn’t the bass player who rode it there.

The building with the steeple that you see in the picture below is Notre Dame Cathedral seen from the rear. The fenced-in area on the corner is a small park that was full of people including a number of kids who seemed to be really enjoying themselves. Wasn’t yesterday a school day? I could swear I saw  a lot of kids heading to school in the morning. I guess French kids play hookey just as I did when I was a teenager.

The following picture, as I am sure you will recognize, is Notre Dame Cathedral seen from the front. You can pay an admission fee to climb the towers, but the line of people waiting to do so stretched for blocks, and I am not a patient person, so I gave the tour of the towers a pass.

The line of people waiting to enter the cathedral was much shorter. The reason there was a line at all is because there is a security check at the door. Due to a number of terrorist attacks in Paris, you have to go though some sort of security screening to enter almost any public building in Paris.

Inside the cathedral, a mass was taking place. I sat a pew at the back and stealthily took a picture, making sure that the flash was turned off. The church was dimly lit, but the camera magnified the light and makes the scene look brighter.

There were few people paying attention to the mass, but there were hordes of people walking on both sides of the central nave who cannot be seen in the picture. Cameras were flashing every few seconds. I suppose the priests are used to holding mass in the midst of a swarm of tourists.

The mass was in French, which is the weakest of the languages I speak, so as the priest’s amplified voice echoed off the stone walls, I was able to understand very little. Somehow that felt comforting. When I was a small child, mass in the Catholic Church was still held in Latin, and I couldn’t understand a word.

After I had sat respectfully for a time, or at least I thought I had been respectful, I walked outside the central columns among the hordes of tourists taking selfies to the front of the church and arrived just as the parishioners were walking to the altar to take communion.  The picture is a bit blurry, because the picture was taken in low light, and I couldn’t hold the camera perfectly still, even though I had it braced on a railing.

My final picture was taken in the central courtyard of the Louvre Museum. I remember the scandal when I was younger that was caused by the construction of the glass pyramid in the courtyard’s center. Some people were appalled that this modern construction should be added to the venerable Louvre, which is hundreds of years old. Today, almost everyone seems to accept the pyramid as an important part of the Louvre. If you look closely or click on the image to enlarge it, you sill notice several tourists having their pictures taken with the pyramid in the background.

By this time, my fitness watch was telling me that I had walked eight miles, and my old man’s legs were aching. I decided to call it a day and took the subway back to the hostel, where I got into a long conversation with a Frenchman who was born in Algeria and is currently living in Finland. I won’t bore you with the details of the conversation, but I will mention that the gentleman has a remarkable knowledge of European history.