Métro station exit Saint-Michel
There's always a crowd around the métro station exit
at boulevard Saint-Michel.

Half of the Day After the Night Before Bastille Day

from Mike Harmon, via the Internet Dear Ric,

Paris:- Thursday, 22. May 1997:- Tedy and me, we were talking about how great the métro is, and how we were able to just run down and jump on at any station and be at any destination in minutes.

We are running to get on this train at Châtelet and Tedy runs ahead of me toward the door just as the train is about to depart, and all of a sudden she is trapped half-in and half-out of the door. Gasp!

I run up and start pushing and pulling on the door and the train is starting to move. People inside are watching us with looks of faint concern but nobody moves to help us. I'm really worried now and Tedy is frantic and actually freaking out, yelling 'help' with all the lungs she has.

All of a sudden, out of nowhere from behind me, some French guy runs up and pushes the door open just enough for Tedy to get in. Just as suddenly, as the train is actually moving out, I'm inside. Whew.

The people on the train, as one should expect on an incredibly hot July day, are just sitting there, not really reacting much - very Parisian, they've seen it before. We finally see that we are safe, relax and laugh and wonder about the mystery man who helped us.

I am standing in the front of the car just checking everybody out and wiping sweat off my face, and I notice these rough looking guys standing at the next stop as the train comes in. I know we were in for something because I'd seen these kind of panhandlers before - a métro train is a great captive audience.

One of them stands right next to me, and starts to berate the passengers about needing money. He is somewhat poorly dressed. I look at him and then look over at the passengers and they just couldn't care less, or it was just too hot to care, or both. He just sort of gives his speech and notices that nobody cares and gets off at the next stop. I may have looked too poor and disheveled myself but he never even tried to get any money from me. I'll ask Tedy about what he said - I'm sure she will remember.

I'll even throw in a bit about how we arrive at my favorite métro station, Saint-Michel, across the river from Notre Dame. I remember the fountain and everything. There is even a dog and some people in the water. This stop is the main entry into the Saint Germain area, which is very beautiful. I am standing there and this Rumanian guy comes up to me asking where the Rumanian section of town was - like I look Rumanian or something. Strangely enough Suzanne - she is with us too - knows where it was and directs him.

This was the day after, the day after the night before Bastille Day and there are these three obviously still drunk French guys drinking beer at the restaurant there. What a trip! I have the best steak-frites ever for lunch.

One of the drunk guys has a pair of green kid's sun-glass frames on with no lenses. He is really drunk, but charmingly so. One of his friends wants to know if I had been in the CIA during the Vietnam war; apparently he had been some kind of secret agent, very cool and definitely the leader of the group.

What happens after lunch I'll tell you later, like about the métro; like the difference between the first class and regular section of the train and how you can go down even deeper and get on the RER and go off to the hinterland. We stopped at so many stations waiting - just a short time mostly - for the next train.

I never really know where we were going most of the time, the girls have it all planned and just have me follow them this way and that through the great underground maze. I really remember how the art and decoration changes from place to place. Wow, I just remembered the stop at the Louvre!

Later, Mike

Waiting for the Other Two-Thirds of the Day
Dear Tedy, Suzanne and Mike,

Paris:- Saturday, 24. May 1997:- I think it is pretty odd you didn't get asked for money by the guy on the métro. From what you write, you brought two guides with you, so I assume you weren't clutching a métro map in your sweaty hand - which would have been a dead give-away that you were a visitor - and visitors are seldom asked for money.

The first-class wagons on the métro were done away with some time ago. For a while after the trains became one class, you could stand under the direction sign where the single first-class wagon stopped, and always get a seat.

For readers who have not been following Mike's saga, here is a resume: when last heard from, Mike arrived in Paris and immediately started by buying champagne by the bottle on the terrace of L'Européen, across from the Gare de Lyon. He became over-tired in the hot sun on the terrace and missed the rest of the eve of Bastille Day, when the major part of the popular celebration happens.

With this installment, he brings us up to lunchtime, on Bastille Day, 1995. I am sure Metropole readers are just as anxious as I am to read about the remainder of Bastille Day, and the days following.

If this is to be sort of a 'guide' I hope we can get it all in before Bastille Day, 1997.

Regards, Ric

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