Paris, France — February 13, 2018

It’s difficult to believe that I’ll be flying home in two days. Vacations don’t last long enough. Even though I will be happy to have better weather in Phoenix, I wouldn’t mind if my vacation in Europe were to last a few weeks longer.

I have not spoken English since I arrived at the hostel and have been able to get by in French. If I had the opportunity to live in France for one more year, I think I would be fluent in the language.

Yesterday morning as I was waiting for the cafeteria to open for breakfast, I saw a blind man wondering around the hostel lobby tapping his cane and looking lost. No one bothered to help him. Well, with one exception. I did. My French is far from perfect, but it’s good enough to get me by, so I asked him where I could lead him. It turned out that he was also heading for breakfast. Just then, one of the hostel workers opened the cafeteria door, so I took the man’s arm and steered him into the cafeteria and got him seated at a table. He was very grateful. From there, the cafeteria staff took over and served him his breakfast at his table.

I don’t remember if I posted it then, but the first time I left Girona, headed for Madrid, something similar happened. A blind man was tapping with his cane in the Girona train station and obviously wandering around not knowing where he was. The Spanish sat mute and watched him until I noticed that he needed help and approached him. He explained that he was  looking for the information office, so I took him by the elbow and guided him there.

Why so many people can watch a blind person obviously lost flailing around with his cane and do nothing to help is something that I cannot explain.

Every morning at breakfast, I see some of the same people. One of them is this enormous woman pictured below, one of the largest women I have ever seen. Her language sounds like Russian to me, but whatever the language is that she speaks with her female companion and with a little girl who may be her daughter, it’s not a language that I understand.

Most of us fill our trays at breakfast with a bowl of cereal and milk, a piece of fruit, perhaps two small pieces of bread eaten with cheese, ham or butter and jam plus a cup of coffee and a glass of fruit juice. This woman’s first serving consists of two trays jammed with food, one tray in each hand. She starts with two bowls of cereal, about a loaf of bread, a stack of ham and cheese slices and four or five pieces of fruit plus two bowls of applesauce. Then she goes back for seconds and then thirds, etc. I have seen her pack away six entire oranges for desert. I always make sure I get my breakfast before she gets hers or there might be nothing left. By the way, her jacket is not floating out away from her hips. Her hips are really that wide.

The day started sunny and dry although with a cold breeze blowing. I limit the time I spend outdoors both because I am not accustomed to the cold and because I get a sharp pain in my left leg when I walk (piriformis syndrome?) Nonetheless, I was determined to go back to the Saint-Sulpice Church and see the inside. I navigate by walking as far as I can until I can no longer stand the pain, and then I find a place to sit down. After I sit for just a few minutes, the pain goes away, and I can walk another few blocks before I have to sit down again. One good thing about visiting churches is that there are plenty of pews in which to sit, and I rode the subway to within a few blocks of the church. (Yes, I have an appointment to see the doctor about the pain a few days after I get back to Phoenix.)

In the plaza in front of the Saint-Sulplice church stands this monument. I believe it is actually a fountain whose water has been shut off due to the cold weather that has been plaguing Paris for weeks. I imagine the monument has an interesting history, but I do not know it.

The picture below was taken just after I entered the Saint-Sulplice church through the rear door. It looks toward the main altar. The church has individual wooden chairs with cane seats instead of pews. The chairs in each row are fastened together at the back so that moving one chair moves the whole row. In contrast to heavy wooden pews, these chairs are very light and easily rearranged. I saw someone doing just that while I was in the church using only one hand to move each row of chairs to its new position.

Below is a photograph of the sanctuary or area where the altar is located taken from the sanctuary’s left side. Note the enormous candle sticks.

The altar pictured below is behind the main altar and belongs to one of the many chapels within the cathedral. I believe there are more than 20 chapels within the church.

Below is another of the chapels showing its simple stained glass window. I have read two reasons as to why the newer stained glass windows are simpler and clearer. One explanation is that the art of making elaborate stained glass declined over time. The other is that windows in later churches were so designed as to let in more light.

As I was riding back to the hostel on the subway, my left leg began to hurt. The subway train was crowded, and most of us were standing. The pain must have shown in my face, because suddenly a young woman jumped up and offered me her seat. There was a time, until perhaps five years ago, when I would have felt insulted. I felt until my early 70s that I was just as strong as any young person. However, the 70s have taken their toll, and I now admit to myself that I am going downhill. I gratefully took the seat and thanked her for offering it. I still had a long way to ride on that subway, and not having to stand made the ride much less unpleasant.

There is another group of teenagers in the hostel. They were talking loudly at breakfast this morning. However, the hip-hop music that the hostel management put on the PA system for them was at a much lower volume than the music that was played for the last teenage group. Believe it or not, I like kids, although they are much easier to get along with if they are well-behaved.

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