A travel tale from year 2014. Year 2018 tales coming early August.
Our Emirates A380 whale finally beached itself by nosing in against France’s Charlie De Gaulle Airport and like hundreds of Krill, we dribbled forth into the bowels of another animal, French Passport Control staffed by officers of the 4th Republic. The previous three republics were not satisfactory to the french peasants so after lopping off a few heads via la guillotine, they moved onto what they thought was a superior model and put the guillotine away in the Mother Hubbard for future use. They just did not know when. The passport control officers were very laid back and did not even ask me if I was related to Ernest of the Hemingway tribe. Obviously they are not into travel blogs. Its all very casual and with a yawn, a stamp in out little Aussie passport, we are off to collect our luggage. No customs, no inspections of body nor carry on luggage for us but then I think if I were dark skinned, had arrived from Algiers or Lebanon and my was wife wearing a full body sheet bearing a resemblance to a small single hump camel ? And I did not even get to say ‘Wee’ which I understand is ‘yes’ in French speak. The road approaches from airport thru the outer urban areas are fairly ordinary and disappointing, sad architecture of the apartment kind looking overcrowded, graffiti everywhere, traffic as well until hey presto, one reaches the outskirts of the Paris of tourist brochures and here it is a different story. The Fourth Republic and their predecessors have maintained historic aesthetic and architectural discipline along the Rue’s, Boulevards, Avenues and this ‘Heart of Paris’ enclave, the tourist Paris, is what we are here for. There are 20 arrondissements or districts in the real, the tourist Paris and these spiral out from number one at the centre near the Musee du Louvre in a clockwise direction and here for nearly two centuries, tight planning and architectural controls, maintain the Paris look that attracts near 15 million tourists a year. A lot of planning luck over the years went into todays Paris, for after all, the majority of its structures and layouts are 19th century. Various Revolutions, Kings, Emperors and Guillotines all helped in re-organising and re-jigging the planning constraints and its a bloody wonder that French developers did not get their sticky developers fingers in with their profit before aesthetics. Perhaps the developers and the planning authorities were all too busy having dalliances, affairs of the heart and dins of Foie Gras with fried Frog Legs on the side. When I say luck, during World War Two, that megalomaniac Hitler learning that Allied forces were about to recapture Paris, instructed one of his senior officers, General Dietrich von Choltitz, to blow up all its bridges, monuments and historic buildings. So Dietrich being a dutiful officer did the initial part of that as dynamite and other explosive devices were placed about Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre amongst others. However, the General had a sense of history combined with guilt feelings and did not proceed further thus infuriating the goose stepping megalomaniac as if heeded further irritation. The General handed himself over to the Allies and surrendered the city in August 1944. Despite his poor human rights record during the war, for which he should have been guillotined, as a minimum, he was feted and presented with the rights in perpetuity to affairs and dalliances of the heart with French mesdames and mountainside sheep. Take your pick. When the General died in 1966 after a long illness, perhaps there was a god, his funeral was attended by several high ranking French Army Officers. Possibly those officers whose wives and daughters the General had a dalliance with and they were there to ensure he was dead. Another interesting ‘tit bit’ from war time Paris, is that Hitler on learning that his troopers were indulging in ‘hanky panky’ with French mesdames, read prostitutes, and this was OK with the Moustached One. But those mesdames were giving his troopers gifts of ‘social diseases’. Perhaps it was all part of the Allies master plan, to render the troopers unfit to fight the Allies because they had terribly itching in their Orchestra Stalls area. Hitler had one of his many strange brain waves and ordered blow up dolls as a substitute for his troops. Nazi scientists had developed the ‘synthetic comforter’ for German soldiers. The WWII project occurred after SS Chief Heinrich Himmler wrote of the problems in Paris finding a good clean orchestra, leading Hitler to personally approve the plan to manufacture blond haired blue eyed ‘gynoid dolls’ which were small enough folded to fit in a back pack. They were tested by soldiers on Nazi occupied Jersey who were weary of sleeping with sheep. The female populace of Jersey having fled to mother England. But in 1942 the project was halted because of the potential embarrassment if soldiers were captured whilst committing hanky panky or had the intention of doing so per the evidence in their back pack. No record has been kept of how many ‘gynoid’ babies were born during the war. In the ‘Tourist Paris’, building heights are restricted to 37 metres, 7 floors that mostly means, although Hobbit occupied buildings with 1.5 metre high ceilings, get up to 14 floors. So that there is an evenness to the landscape and in the architecture in so far as buildings go. This evenness spills over into the streetscapes where large Maple leafed trees mixed in with Beech, Sycamore and Horse Chestnut, filter the light, shade the buildings and provide places for the thousands of Paris dogs to do their wee’s. Mind you, most of them miss, its a male thing mostly, and wet the surrounds. In the number two’s department, doggies do it anywhere convenient. Sidewalks, Rue’s, Boulevards and Avenues, any hard dark leaf strewn surface where people, read tourists mainly, walk making it difficult to see the brown logs amongst the mottled grey and olive green. There are vast differences in affordability and life quality depending on, in which arrondissement one lives. Consequently there are Parisian areas for paupers, princes, kings, George Clooney’s and Hobbits. Further out in multi storey cheek upon jowl ‘villages’ way beyond the ‘Real Tourist Paris’, reside the thousands of Sudanese, Morrocan, Algerian and assorted nationalities who infiltrated France under Bob Brown’s Green’s agendas and United Nations Charters. Just recently, the French Poliburo decided they wanted their country and culture back. So, under the guise of French for the French and we shall maintain our historic culture, they not wanting fried wilderbeast, camel and corn patty hamburgers, tossed out the rulebook the one relating to multi-culturalism, and shut the French Doors. Mind you, what I have seen of French Culture after 3 days here, believe that a certain Australian Diplomat, Sir Les Paterson, is in charge. Our taxi driver from airport, Jamalle of Morrocan ancestry, arrived in France 20 years ago before the French tightened the cultural and racial screws. Jamalle was a small bubbly man who dropped us near 124 Rue Saint Dominique as I presented him with 2 small soft furry koalas for his two young daughters but I nearly took them back as he wanted to kiss me on each cheek. Susan my bride alias The Smitten One, chose our apartment ‘off the web’ as it had a view of the Eiffel Tower, was furnished in the very French style bordering on ‘chic’ and our arrondissement was apparently, so the booking brochure told us, free of paupers, peasants, princes and doggies that do their number two’s on the sidewalk. There was a good chance we would bump into George Clooney. They fibbed about some of that. We were up on the fifth floor and had two choices to access our Garret – climb 94 narrow winding wobbly stairs or use the squishee ancient lift designed and installed during the reign of King Louie some 200 years ago. The ancient lift states that it accommodates three people. It could provided they were midgets. We were warned by our ‘meet and greet’ person Aaron, he dark skinned, handsome, broad smile, and looking like Snoop Dog, that it was really only suitable for one person With a bag. He left hanging as to what would happen if we overloaded the ancient lift. I insisted my bride and her bag go up in the lift as I, a fit skinny male in his seventies, staggered up the stairs wondering whether I would or would not meet Susan at the top. The rattling, shaking and vibrations of the lift accompanied me as I steadily proceeded up. The lift stopped at the fifth floor with a jump, a fart and expelled relief and Susan with loud mechanical noises announcing to the other three apartments on the fifth floor, plus surrounding nooks and crannies wherein live rats, hunchbacks and large spiders, that we have new arrivals. Stairs were quicker and better for a 70 year old’s heart. Inside our Garret, and there looking out the two double doors/windows WAS the Eiffel Tower looming large such that it seemed we could touch it. And I yet to have a Jamesons!! All as promised in the brochures on the web – it was not photo shopped by a small firm in Nigerian. Our Garret has a teensy hall where you could meet and greet one friend, small kitchen for one person to prepare ‘le cuisine’ and wherein is newish equipment including a tiny clothes washer come dryer with instructions written in Sanskrit. There’s also a broom closet and small bathroom with sit down porcelain pony off the hall and a largish ‘le saloon’. Its not all squishee, tiny, small. The saloon is a combo sitting, lounge and dining area of 26 square metres furnished in quasi antiques, a large flat screen TV, DVD, stereo, sofa bed couch, bookcase with many books some in Aussie lingo, a large round dining table, 3 small desks, replica Empress Josephine lamps, plaster casts of Greek Goddess’s, brass telescope on tripod for when the mood takes you to have a perve at the building opposite. Walls adorned with prints of ancient buildings, mesdames and cupids. Its all very ‘French’ and well presented. Two tiny juliet balconies are accessible out the two sets of double doors/windows but I dare not venture out as my fear of heights phobia may visit me and I may get the wobbles and fall off. Plus, the balconies really are small such that Juliet could sit but Romeo would have to stand thus he could gaze down at Juliet’s amples. Off this lounge/dining combo is a small ‘le chambre’ or bedroom, with just the biggest king sized bed that could easily sleep six across. Just what do the French get up to?. Off this there is another really small shower room which one has to enter and depart from, sideways. The total floor area of our Garret, and I love for some reason working out and knowing these things, is 54 square metres. Judging by prices for apartments or Garrets shown in the nearby ‘Agence Immobilaire’, a real estate office, ‘ours’ would sell for around 800, 000 Aussie dollars, and its one bedroom. Crikey!!!!! Snoop Dog instructed us to how it all works and, theres the complimentary bottle of wine’ and ‘make sure you dead lock all the doors and windows AND do not leave valuables in the apartment; use the safe’. Crikey I’m thinking, we are on the fifth floor, surely burglars or ‘cambrioleurs’ do not find their way up here. But yes they do. People like Grace Kelly and Cary Grant do climb buildings, cross balconies, scale steep roofs all in the hope of accessing tourists loot. We have none but they do not know that. After that unwelcome news from Snoop Dog, I have a squiz out into the communal courtyard really a foul air shaft looking all aged and decrepit, where many windows and balconies have mesh coverings or are fitted with roller shutters. It was time for Snoop Dog to depart for a singing gig such that he was rather quick explaining the operation of the TV and DVD player which required I considered, a PhD in French Intelligence and Linguistic skills just to get flickering snow on the screen. As soon as we unpack, inspect and unwind a bit, we’re down the 94 winding narrow stairs with hearts pumping, then outside to inspect our neighbourhood and its much to our liking. The Rue Saint Dominique, is a narrow one way street lined one side with vehicles parked cheek by jowl the other half by maniacs tearing past in control of vespas, small vans and Renaults all piloted by drivers from the kamikaze school of driving, whose number one requirement for qualification, is to blast their horn or bell whilst shouting ‘Se faire baiser’ with two fingers held erect. Which is a tad disconcerting as one hand is on the horn and the other has fingers erect meaning who the **** is guiding the machine. As we are used to more genteel traffic, and vehicles driving on the left, here they go on the right, I clutch my Rosary Beads, Sue’s hand and we find a kind French person to cross the road with. Road rules seem to be practically non existent, they being designed by a mad Irish Australian named ‘Rafferty’. His big mistake was in not placing white lines on the roads to indicate that there is order, and you should not be in that line of traffic but that one over there. No lines and with traffic lights which are set low and obscured behind a tree, a human, a dog piddling, is all a recipe for pandemonium on the roads. I know because I live in country Australia!!! It all an orchestration of chaos and thus many vehicles have dings, dents and rude word stickers on back windows telling occupants of vehicles following, that their parents were not actually their parents. Here, before crossing a road, its look left, right, left, right and do it all again, firmly grasp one’s Rosary Beads, then sprint for the other side whilst trying to avoid squishing your white sandshoes in fresh French Spittle and/or doggie doo’s. Having a street spittle or ‘goosee’ is very ‘in’ here as is allowing your pampered pooch, and there are thousands of them all shapes and sizes escorting their owners about, to do their number two’s wherever but generally where tourists like us stroll or sprint across a Rue, Boulevard or Avenue. These habits yet to reach Australia as us backwoods uncouth and uncultured people do not spittle in the street and we tend to clean up doggie doo with government provided bags. However, once the Greens find out about these expressions of individuality and fertilisation of the French streets, will with the help of other strange people in our national Senate, introduce a bill into parliament which will take the media by storm. As these things do. Just opposite our buildings Portico, nearly at arms length so narrow is our Rue, is a ‘Patisserie’, then a gift shop and on the corner, a large cafe called ‘Le Dome’ where it costs 10 Aud for a coffee. Further along and away from ‘Le Dome’, is a mini mart staffed by friendly Frenchies. A quarter of the store is taken up with alcoholic drinks, bottles and cans which says something about the demographics hereabout. Then there’s another cafe, gift shop with bored attendant, a tiny ‘T’ junction, then the ‘Cafe Constant’ wherein Smitten and I hope to have a few jolly times, within the parameters of my seventy years of life. Then a series of more cafe’s and small business’s disappearing down towards the River Sienne. On our side and adjacent our Portico, another gift shop, a cafe then a small Boucherie wherein are displayed on refrigerated shelving, most of planet Earths animals apart from kangaroos, possums and Tasmanian Devils. Pigs heads abut plucked and unplucked pheasant, spatchcocks, guinea fowl, pigeons, chicken, duck, horse and goat meat, all types of offal and some meats I could not identify but possibly could have been snake or Galapagos Island Skint. The French taste buds are open to anything and everything and if they had beaten the English to plant the flag in Oz soil, and they nearly did, then they would not by so silly about slaughtering roos, emus, possums, devils, geckos, hairy nosed wombats and multiculturalists for the table. Today in Oz, feral cats slaughter millions of native mammals every year. Grr grr. The ABC’s Four Corners program assisted by the ‘Greenies’, would go into spasm’s over what is available at French ‘Boucheries’ and how it is slaughtered and prepared for the table. Jeese, today at lunch I had snails in garlic and bure sauce – cripes. And what about frogs legs which are available at our ‘Boucherie’ along with snails. Frogs have a happy soggy life before they are netted from the rivlets, swamps and Frog Farms of French countryside to croak it by having their legs chopped off. Or is a stun gun or tiny needle filled with frog anaesthetic used beforehand? Further on along our Rue, flow shop after interesting shop they extending into the nearby Rue’s and include Poissonnerie’s , Traiteurs, Cordonnerie’s with small business offices. But the cafe’s and restaurants predominate and in fact are so numerous leading me to think that the French nation dines out a lot and not at the Golden Arches. At least in the ‘district’ we are in. Susan, my lovely wife, did an excellent job in selecting our apartment and its arrondissement – yay for Susan. Our Garret is located in the 7th arrondissement and as I mentioned previously, there are now twenty of these. Once there were only 12 arrondissements but politics being what it is combined with making ‘jobs for the boys’, the politburo or ‘la administration’ established another eight making one huge ‘snail’ which manages to slither into everyone’s life and extract taxes with a large bureaucracy to meddle in one’s life. The number 1 arrondissement, the Louvre, had a population of 17,700 souls in 2005 and by conclusion it is where the very rich live whereas the 15th thru 20th have the heaviest population of peasants. The 20th called ‘Menilmontant’ having 191, 800 souls in 2005 squished into tiny Garrets, linen and broom cupboards. The heaviest populated arrondissements are in the outer snail rings, and here is where all the crazy little cafes, art shops, bars, liquorice allsort nationalities, rugby, Collingwood supporters, artists, pimps and prostitutes live and play. Thats where I would be if I were in my twenties. There is an arrondissement titled ‘Popincourt’ and another called ‘Gobelins’ which all ads to the ‘Romance of Gay Paree’.
Ooroo from Des as we prepare for another Europe Adventure.