Paris – Day 3

I thought I could condense some of this, but I haven’t been able to do the Reader’s Digest version yet. So, here is day 3. If you want to read my previous days’ adventures, here is Day 1, and Day 2.

We met again at 10 a.m. in front of the metro station nearest all our apartments, except for Annie, who stayed in another area of town. Shelley showed me how to use the ticket machines, so I would not be stranded again. I bought 10 tickets. Then, we did a quick overview of how to know which train to get on. I’m going to briefly cover this, because honestly it gets confusing unless you are looking at a map. In Paris, there are two types of trains, the Metro and RER. The metro services certain zones within Paris proper, and the RER travels outside of the regular zones. So, it services the airport (aeroport, in French) and places such as Chateau Versailles. You can still use the RER to go to certain stops within Paris, such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. You really have to map your course before you start, or you’ll find yourself at a dead end with no train going the direction you need. Then, you have to backtrack. Ask me how I know. To know which way to go, you find the name of the station at the end of the line. So, for example if you want to go to Notre Dame from the Arc de Triomphe, you would go to station Charles de Gaulle Etoile and get on the Metro 1 toward Chauteau de Vincennes and get off at Hotel de Ville, just a few blocks from the church. Often, there would be a sign listing all the stations the train would stop at going a certain direction, but not always. If you find yourself on a platform for a train going the wrong way (which I did more than once), climb the stairs and follow the signs to the platform on the other side. The system is not intuitive, but once Shelley explained the basics of the system, it made sense. The major problem was when a line was down for maintenance, which happened to me twice. Figuring out a workaround gave me a headache.

Honestly, I think we missed the boat on mass transit in the U.S. I know some major cities have similar systems, but most Americans are so tied to their cars that we would all sit in a traffic jam 10 miles long and circle a block 200 times looking for a parking space and still not consider alternatives. One of my tour guides travels an hour and a half by train to work every day. It seems a much simpler commute than by car, which would likely take more than two hours one way. My friends that live in Paris don’t even own a car. Think of the expenses we would give up? Hundreds of dollars a month in gas, alone. Car insurance. Maintenance. Sign me up. Of course, the reality here is that in Austin, at least, we don’t have the infrastructure to support such a system. There are no neighborhood corner markets or pedestrian friendly streets. And, according to the government, we couldn’t possibly let the car manufacturers suffer any business loss or the whole economy might tank.

So, anyway, we jumped on the metro and went to the farmers’ market to end all farmers’ markets. This thing was four rows of vendors probably three blocks long, at least. There were vegetables, fruits, fish, meat, cooked food, fresh flowers, jewelry, clothes, toys. You name it, and it was probably there. I saw vegetables I’d never seen before. The flowers were like silk, they were so perfect. We each bought some delicacies, and Shelley bought many of the ingredients we would need for dinner. We sent our stash with Lori’s boys back to her apartment to refrigerate, and then continued on to Jardin Luxembourg, yet another humongous park with a former palace on the grounds. We walked around for a little while, but the wind was very cool. So, we decided to find a cafe to sit in and talk some more about our business development issues. As we were strolling across an area where a quaint crepe stand was located, I took out my camera to take some pictures of the cutest old couple waiting for a fresh crepe. When I turned around to say something to my friends, I saw two couples walking toward me. The two men smiled right at me, and I gave a half smile/half puzzled look. You know when you think someone looks familiar, but you can’t place them. They walked on by with their wives and stood a few hundred feet from us posing for pictures. About that time, it dawned on all of us who they were. Jerry Seinfeld and George Stephanopoulos. Lori was the first to recognize George, and I recognized Jerry. They probably thought, “Oh great, we wanted to have a simple stroll, and we had to run into the only Americans in the whole park.” I snapped a couple of shots of them, but we didn’t approach them. I’ve heard of famous people who snarl at anyone who recognizes them. These two seemed gracious and casual.

After several hours talking business, we split up and then met back at Shelley’s apartment for dinner again. It was another wonderful evening of good food, good friends, and good talk.

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