Paris, France — February 12, 2018

I had a couple of chats in my basic French this morning. I was the only person at breakfast when it opened at 7 am, so I had a chat with the guy who was setting it up. Then I had a short chat with a cleaning lady who wanted to scrub the floor and clean the table where I was sitting. She wanted to know more about the United States, which she hopes to visit someday. That didn’t stop her from chasing me away from the area she wanted to clean, however.

Both of them are of African origin. I noticed long ago that it was easier to talk to the French-speaking Africans that to the native French. The Africans are more open. The French people tend to be reserved and to treat strangers in a formal manner, which gives them the undeserved reputation of being stand-offish. I think “shy” is a better description.

It was chilly and wet outside yesterday, but it neither rained or snowed. As many times as I have visited Paris, I have never been to the city’s famous Luxembourg Gardens, so I decided to go. The Gardens, which are very formal and manicured, would have been more attractive in warm weather, of course, but I had to accept this year’s chilly winter. Some of the flowers that had been planted to early were wilted. I don’t think anyone foresaw this cold snap.

The Odéon Theater, pictured below, is located outside the Gardens. Currently, Shakespeare’s Macbeth is playing there, I assume in French translation. I have a flyer for the play, in French of course, but the flyer has no information about ticket prices. In my experience, those of us who have to ask the price of things can’t afford to buy them.

When you enter the Luxemburg Gardens, which are surrounded by a high iron fence, you first priority is not to be trampled by one of the hundreds of runners who jog along paths throughout the park.  The group shown below came barreling down on me as soon as I walked through one of the gates. Most were running in the same direction, but as you can see, there were a few who had to run against the current.

One of the main attractions in the Gardens is the Luxemburg Palace, shown below. It was built in 1625 for Queen Marie of Médicis and over the years has served as a residence for the royal family, a prison, and a place for the French Senate to meet. I’ve read that its library contains 450,000 books, but I wasn’t able to enter to confirm that. Not only is the palace surrounded by a high fence, it is also guarded by gendarmes sporting mean-looking military rifles. You can’t just walk in.

I understand that only way for commoners to gain entrance is as part of a group tour. The group has to be invited by one of the senators and accompanied by a guide. Anyone without a formal invitation is in danger of being shot. Oh, yes, notice the runners zipping along the fence.

Algeria was once a part of France, not a possession, but an actual French department just as Hawaii is one of the United States. However, many Algerians wanted their own country and their own nationality and resented being French Arabs. The Algerian War for Independence lasted from 1954 to 1962. During and after the war, there were many terrorists attacks in Paris. One tactic involved planting bombs in public trash cans. To discourage this, Paris did away with closed trash containers and replaced them with transparent plastic bags. Those see-through trash receptacles can still be found all over Paris including in the Luxemburg Gardens.

Back in the 1980s when I used to visit France with my daughter Inge, we had to send our passports off to the French consulate in Las Angeles to get a visa for France. We carried traveler’s checks in those days, and when we went into a bank to cash one, we had to go through two sets of doors. First one door would open to admit the customer in from the street. Then that door would close, and another door would open into the bank. The double doors were designed to prevent terrorists from rushing into the bank. There were also guards with high-powered rifles standing in front of the banks. Both the visa requirement and the high security at the banks were responses to the terrorism.

The fountain in the following photo was ordered built by Marie Médicis back in the days when France was sill ruled by a king and the Luxemburg Gardens were the front yard of the royal family. The fountain was not bubbling when I visited it yesterday, presumably because the cold weather of the preceding days would have covered a working fountain in ice.

As befits a royal garden, it is full of old statues including the one shown below. I didn’t take the time to find out the significance of this particular statue. Naturally, just as I snapped the picture, a runner came jogging into the frame.

A short distance from the Luxemburg Gardens stands the Saint-Sulpice Church, the second-largest church in Paris, taking a back seat only to Notre Dame Cathedral. Construction of the church began in he 1600s on the site of an earlier Roman church. I understand the church was featured in Dan Brown’s novel The Divinci Code, although it is claimed that Mr. Brown took great liberty with the church’s description and history.

I didn’t go inside the church, and I’m now sorry I didn’t I still have a few days left in Paris, so perhaps I will go back and enter the church. If not, I have something to look forward to on my next trip to this city.

The scene below looks like some scrap metal that fell of the back of a truck, but it is actually a sculpture. When I examined it more closely, I discovered that it is a fountain with the water turned off due to the cold weather.

When I got back to the hostel, it was full of kids: teenagers and pre-teens. I don’t mind the kids, but in order to make them feel more welcome, the hostel management put teenie-bopper music on the PA system and cranked the volume up to an ear-splitting level. I can’t stand being in the common area. I believe the music is loud enough to contribute to hearing loss, and I don’t have that much hearing left to lose. I am writing this locked in my room, two floors up. Even here I can hear the pounding of the bass notes.

I wonder if the hostel management knows (or cares) about the possible hearing loss those kids may suffer as they get older as a result of being subjected to such loud music.

I'd love to know what you think of this post. Jack