Saturday, March 26, 2005

There and Back Again

Wow! Our trip to Paris was amazing. I am not going to bore you all with lots of details. Just know that this was one of the best trips I have ever been on. First of all, the weather was absolutely wonderful the whole time we were there...sunny and high 60s. I got a nice suntan on my face. Paris is mainly flat and incredibly "walkable". Yaacov and I walked miles and miles through the city. Never took a cab. Took a city bus once in a while and took the train to/from the airport.

We stayed at the Hotel de Suez. It was lovely. Cheap. Clean. Wonderful location. If you visit Paris on a budget, this is a good place to stay.

The pictures below show some of the places we went. I forgot my camera at home. I realized that I left it at home about 20 minutes into the trip to the airport. So, the pictures below aren't mine. They were "borrowed" from other websites and pretty well reflect what we saw while we were there without giving you a long slide show. Not reflected in the photos is the fact that many things were in bloom while we were there. Spring in Paris!

Parisians know how to through a party. They had a daffodil festival at the Pantheon while we were there. They put strips of sod (grass) down on the sidewalk to/from the Pantheon and had thousands of daffodils decorating the front entry. It was beautiful and fun.

Paris is also putting on a really good competition for the 2012 Olympics. Everywhere you went, you could see huge signs for 2012 Olympic City Finalist! I am sure that they already have the infra-structure to support the event.

As I mentioned, we were on a budget, and this made things fun. Food is expensive in Paris. We spent our days sightseeing and looking for cute restaurants for our evening meal. Yaacov doesn't get into wine, so that was a budget helper. (Although wine is cheaper than Coke in Paris.) We managed to find good places to eat on our own and when our friends arrived they had some places that they wanted to try out too.

Ingra and Ron were our neighbors in NC and are our good friends. We met them in Paris and had several fun-filled days. Our friend Adrienne also joined us. Like us, they were into walking the city and just looking at all the wonderful things to be seen. Paris is a place full of dynamic ideas and fun window shopping.

Parisians are proud of their city and country and rightfully so. It is beautiful!

One of the things that Yaacov and I didn't like was that they close parks at dusk (and even before dusk). On two occasions we were enjoying the sun in one of Paris' beautiful parks when the park police came, blew their whistles, and kicked everyone out. It guess that's the way they keep them safe and clean. On the first night Ingra, Ron, and Adrienne were in town, we stayed out until 2:00! At that hour, they turn off the lights to the Eiffel Tower and other sites...things get sketchy as there are fewer people about. There is kind of a spooky feeling about the city at that time of night.

Paris is a city of about 12 million people (in the metro area). Not all of Paris is as beautiful as the central part that most tourists see. On the train into town, you see poverty, graffiti, and the other side of urban life.

It was tough to return to crazy Jerusalem. But I am feeling more confident somehow in my interactions with people here. In France, I just pushed right ahead in my conversations with people (smiles take you far) even though I don't know French. Here I feel kind of timid to stick my neck out. Mainly, it's just easier for me to let Yaacov do all the talking. But I think that I am going to try to take full advantage of this city. I now actually know more than enough Hebrew to communicate with just about everyone on a basic level. So, there's now reason for me to be afraid or intimidated.

I saw a show on the Chaim Tovim (good life) channel last night about Marrakesh. I was amazed by their markets and life style. Then I realized that I have all of that right here in Jerusalem. DUH! See, there are two cities in Jerusalem: the Old City and West Jerusalem. (There's East Jerusalem too, but that's another story...) I live in "new" West Jerusalem. The Old City - well, it's intimidating. The shop keepers call to you to enter their shop. You have to negotiate for everything (or just get totally ripped off) and the worst part is not knowing where you are. The streets in the Old City are narrow and the markets are covered so it's impossible to look up and find landmarks. So, for a guy used to shopping in Wal-Mart with big organized aisles, it can be a little overwhelming.

Anyway, if I can take on Paris. The little Old City shouldn't be so bad.


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