Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Things I like about Paris

Since I was hard on France in my last post, here we go.

1. Rollerbladers are not treated as though they are evil. You see all sorts of people skating in groups, playing pickup games of hockey in parks, and in general not being shunned by the world. There's lots more skaters than in Canada as well. The municipal government even mentions "rollers" on their signs about scenic river routes, as well as pedestrians and cyclists (Charlottetown Boardwalk could learn something therre).

2. Free public toilets. Important when travelling.

3. Streets that are named after someone have info on the sign about the person - it's a nice touch.

4. Fresh bread at any time of day. Unlike Scotland where it seems to sell out at noon, and that's any bread.

And in general it is a nice city as far as cities go. It's very grand, in that you can tell from the buildings, the gold paint on the fences, the sculptures of winged horses and sphinxes and what-have-you, that this is a city that has been rich for a long time and isn't afraid to show it off.

May 1 seemed to be a holiday, so all of the tourist things I had planned failed due to closures save Notre Dame cathedral. It was huge, very dark inside, quite imposing. Stained glass windows were pretty but I always have trouble figuring out what they're about due to the ornateness and the fact that I don't speak medieval religious symbology.

Afterward I wondered, discovering that everything was closed, so I made my way to the Champ de Mars, the park on which sits the Eifel Tower, and sat watching Parisian families play football and hang out.

Unlike in the UK, where people seem to obey the signs that say "No ball games" on any stretch of grass, in Paris they just play ball right by the sign. The rules seem to exist to be broken. In Notre Dame, there were signs saying not to take pictures but everyone was. One guy was setting up a huge tripod!

And a final neat thing about Paris is that I was able to speak French all day and my accent even improved over the day. So then I went to Spain where it's not of much use. Another post...

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