Monday, July 12, 2010

Walking in a "World Class City" - Paris by the Seine

Sunday 11th July

Our final day in France, apart from Monday morning which will be spent getting to the airport and getting ticketed to Doha and doesn’t count, which was an excuse to not go shopping as there were no shops open and not to head off on expeditions to famous ruins, castles, stately homes or visiting famous dead people but simply relaxing and wandering along the Seine admiring the view, stopping for an occasional drink at a cafe, watching people walk by and enjoy the day.

The idea of simply relaxing into the day is quite refreshing, particularly when one is living in any “world class city” (be it Doha, Paris, Vienna, London, Amsterdam...), so I find it quite amusing to read the NZ newspapers on line to see some of the punters for the mayor of the “Super City that is the new Auckland “ proclaiming that if Auckland is to become, under their leadership, a “World class city” it will require 7 days a week trading, “party centrals” on the wharves and lots of pubs and clubs doing 20 hour service but with no decent public transport system or incentive for people use that which exists. While real world class cities, in Paris, as in London, one can move rapidly and easily around the city on a well organised public transport that takes one to the centre of a bustling, cultural centre compared to the wind swept sterility of Auckland’s CBD. As well, it is refreshing to find that the shops do close for at least one day of the week and that family groups can enjoy the streets, the waterways and cultural amenities without worrying about completing a weekend shift.

Anyway, we headed into central Paris and emerged into a relatively tourist free plaza at the Opera as 9.30 seemed to be too early for anyone to emerge from the coolness of their hotels on an already balmy Paris morning. We meandered down the Avenue d’ Opera towards the Louvre where the tourist queues were already forming to get to see the Mona Lisa and made our way along the riverbank towards Notre Dame and St. Germaine where street artists and riverside cafes welcome the browsing passerby.

We dropped down from road level to stroll along the tow path beside the Seine where illusions of pleasure dissipated in the cloying mushroom smell of stale urine left over from the Parisienne Saturday night. We found the next set of steps and climbed back to street level where we could amble without the aromas.

Once on street level I was accosted by a beggar with a great scam. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a gold ring roll past, a young woman, the scammer, picked it up and turned to me “Is this yours?” “No.” “It is gold. Is’nt it?” “Yes it has a hallmark.” “Could you take it to
the police?” “O.K.” “Could you give me money for a coco cola?”
So 2 Euros later I possess a hall-marked bronze wedding ring and the scammer has moved on down the road.

Joy and I keep walking along the road with Joy telling me I’m a mug to be taken in by such a ploy....etc...etc. when suddenly another gold wedding ring drops in front of me. This time very clumsily done by another younger, less experienced scammer. Her clumsiness was clear as one couldn’t help but see her drop the ring and then pick it up. Her direct approach received the response: “You’re too late someone else has pulled that stunt.” To which I was greeted with a stream of invective and a squint worthy of anyone “wishing the evils” on the target of the abuse.

We stopped for a coffee and a beer at a cafe and sat and ate ham sandwiches and drank in the sights for half an hour or so before strolling back along the side streets, past tourist stalls selling all sorts of gimcrackery and discounted hand-bags, to the Place d’la Opera and the metro back to the hostel. Tomorrow- Doha and then the long haul to N.Z.

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