Paris August 2006


On the left, Monet's backyard where he painted his waterlillies.

Hollywood...Paris Style

It was my last day in Paris and I felt compelled to do something. Truth be told, I was ready to leave town. If I see one more gorgeous Bastille style cathedral, I think I'll puke. Anyway, I didn't have any plans and didn't know where I should go. I had given up on attending church at Notre Dome. I had tried three times, all of which had been unsuccessful. All of which were due to my own miscalculations. The first time I set out for Sunday services in the famous cathedral, I misread the information board and arrived in time to hear the service in Japanese. The second time I tried to go, I arrived at 9pm, but the English services were at 9am. The third time I arrived on the correct day, at the appropriate time, but they were canceled due to the fact that there was a local wedding being held. Needless to say I gave up on Sunday mass at a historical landmark.

I strolled along the Champs-Elysees. I actually went inside a few stores this time. The car dealerships are so cool. Did you know that you can select the scent of your choice embedded into the leather of your new jaguar? In fact, the dealerships have concept cars on display. Cars covered with chocolate or chesses, or painted with neon reflectors. They love you to touch, to smell and to listen to their options. Even the French equivalent of the Chevy has a "hands-on" showroom. Inside they have rooms where you put your hands in a dark hole. You feel different things and select the one you like the best. Then in the next room, you close your eyes and a machine brings different scents to you and places them under your nose. Again, you select the one you like. You go through several rooms and when you finish they hand you a profile of your perfect car. Mine was priced at over 50,000 euros (big surprise) and the salesman asked me if I wanted to right a check for that. I thought, "Sure, I'll just write a check and drive right out of the country before it bounces." Oh, by the way, Cartier will make you a platinum and diamond pendent of you and your new car as the models. Luckily I didn't have my checkbook on me at the time. But alas, I digress.

Hollywood was there in full force. They were filming a movie down the main strip. I don't recall the name of it but the scene was a high speed car and bike chance. They would stop the traffic and send their stunt cars in. Then around the corner came six bikers dressed all in black. They weaved in and out of the traffic causing cars to crash and spin out. One man got hit and went flying into the air. Then they started the regular traffic up again. About 10 minutes later they stopped the normal cars and did it all over again. Same poor tourist kept getting hit. I watched about an hour and a half of takes. It was cheap entertainment. I got pretty good footage of the scene on my camera. But if the director is not satisfied with his tape, he should not ask me for mine. My camera is now kaput. I guess it didn't like the pressure of big screen filming and it died.


I never met a cheese I didn't like…until now.

People who know me well, will attest to the fact that my two greatest temptations are cheese and chocolate. I have long since stopped trying to delete them from my diet. Instead, I carefully plan the next dose and limit my intake. I admit that I was a little concerned that living in France would have a negative effect on my waistline. Fortunately, that has not been case.

I have sampled a few of the local cheeses. I do this by randomly selecting one from the local market. Thus far I have tasted and thrown out four different kinds. There is something about the local cheese is that is disgusting to me. First of all, they all come wrapped in a weird looking white outer shell. This natural casing has a gross texture and I have been told that I don't have to eat the wrapper. However, I can't seem to get it off. The cheese is so soft, almost liquid, inside and is well embedded into the shell.

As for chocolate, I have had similar experiences. I had a cup (more like a shot) of hot coco. It was thicker than Heresy's chocolate syrup and seemed to have no sugar in it at all. A chocolate croissant was filled with bitter coco and a local macaroon was bitter-sweet dark chocolate cream between two wafers.

Boy, do I miss Havarti cheese and Godiva chocolate!


The Great Train Robbery

They say you are not a true Parisian until you have your pocket picked once, and then attempted again. The second time, if you are able to prevent it, you are then considered a true Parisian.

I got on the train to meet my landlord for lunch. In a new part of town on a different system than my usual one, I sat down in an empty car for the 30 minute ride. Two gentlemen (if you can call them that) got on at the next stop. They were carrying clips boards and were asking for donations. I apologized for not speaking French and maybe that was my first mistake. One of them disappeared behind me. The other kept hounding me for a donation. "It's for the babies," he said in English. He kept repeating it and was totally in my face. I got up and moved to another seat. He followed me. Then the other one came up behind me at got me to turn around for maybe 5 seconds. When I turned back, my bag had moved slightly. It did not appear to be opened and at the time I assumed it fell over from the rattling of the train.
At the next stop the second guy crossed behind the first guy, which was strange because there was no one else on the train and plenty of room to go around him. He then got off. I know now that one of them handed off my wallet to the other one. By the time that I figured out it was gone they were both off the train.

To add insult to injury, when I got off the train I was surprised to find a security guard standing right at the exit of the platform. I told him what had happened and he led me to a hole in the wall (literally) explaining that his office was under construction. He took down all my information then asked how I was planning on getting back home (since I had no money and no train pass). He explained that I could beg for a nice person to buy me a train ticket in the main terminal and if I found someone that spoke English and they helped me, then he would have to give me a ticket for pan-handling. He said I could sneak in, but then I would be detained for that and fined as well. There were a few other options that I didn't understand. When he completed the report he asked me if that was okay. I said yes that was fine with me. He looked very surprised and asked me again it that was okay. I said yes, that was fine and thank you very much. He then started to take off his pants. I looked at him like he was crazy! He said, this time in English, "You give me oral sex and I'll let you back on the train."

I darted out of there so fast that I had the momentum to jump over the 4 foot turn-style and hopped on the next train (going anywhere) right as it the door was closing behind me.

Oh, but that's not all!
The security guard followed me into Paris. He was on the car next to me and was watching me. I kept moving forward on the train hoping to find other people around. Finally I found a group of 6 Japanese tourists taking up an 8 seat section. I excused myself and sat right in the middle of them (which was weird because the rest of the train was empty).

I finally got to a real police officer in the main station near my house and reported it. They said it's happened before and that the security guard was a fake and probably part of a group involving the other two who stole my wallet.

So the next time someone asks me for a donation I will say, "No thank you I don't want to have sex" and then I will punch them in the nose and run away. Maybe then I'll be a true Parisian. For now, I'm just another tourist…or should I say sucker!


It's a small world

I remember thinking it was a small world when the 2 new students that just joined my class were both from Monterrey, Mexico and just love going shopping in McAllen.

Then I thought the same thing when I saw a BikeFest t-shirt on a man at the Eiffel Tower.

And still just an interesting coincidence when the lady across the hall told me she was married to a man who graduated from Arvada High school.

But today's incident is just plan weird.

As I stood in line for the Louvre, the couple next to me was listening to an iPod. The gentleman saw I was also with my iPod on and asked what I was listening to. I told him I was playing Mozart. I thought that would be great background music while walking around the Louvre. We got to talking and he and his wife just bought the mobile home park called Chimney Rock that's next to Pepe's on the river in Mission, Texas. They live in SFO and got it as an investment.

They asked if (as a local) I had any suggestions for improvements to the park. So if you have any ideas, please let me know!

On his iPod he was listening to a walking tour of the Louvre that he made using the same concept as what I do with transferring my textbooks to my iPod. We both agreed that there is a huge market for iPod texts transformed into listening tools. The conversation really made the time in line pass quickly.

As for the Louvre, well all I can say it that it is incredible. The Rembrandt paintings that I saw many years ago in Amsterdam were huge. But the French paintings make those look like thumbnails. I spend 6 hours there, and saw maybe half of what I wanted to see. I'll have to go back before I leave.