They Shoot Tourists,

photo: gare de lyon train bleu
People arrive at many stations, but most Parisians
leave from the Gare de Lyon.

Don't They?

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Monday, 20. July 1998:- "Can you tell me some places to go where there are no tourists?" is a question I occasionally get asked by readers.

I can't be alert all the time, so I get a picture in my mind of a gaggle of people milling around the métro exit at Palais-Royal-Musée- du-Louvre, which can be called 'Palais-Royal' for short. There aren't any postcard stands at this location, so my less-than-alert mind just tosses in all of the postcard vendors in the whole 1200-metre length of the Rivoli arcades.

Do you get the picture?

Well, what of it? Let me shake off my drowsiness, and start pretending to be alert here. Death Valley in summer springs to mind as a place where there might not be many tourists. I don't think there is much in the way of highlife in Libya either. Where there are no tourists is someplace, not you, not me, want to go.

A little closer to our subject, there are thousands of corners in Paris where seeing other tourists is unlikely. These are not life-threatening placesphoto: souvenir shops like Death Valley; they are more like the boring place I imagine Libya to be.

Not all Paris looks like this, and this doesn't even look like this all the time.

This then is the secret: if you want to be some place in Paris by yourself, it is probably a boring place. Maybe not 'boring' exactly, but a little dull. Unexciting. Unexceptional. A place where Parisians live and hope there is not a lot of loud noise.

As many readers are probably aware, a large part of the recent World Cup Championships were played out in Paris. This event started with the collision between Scotland and Brazil, finished with the final riot of a game a week ago Sunday and was topped off with the Bastille Day celebration, which was a bit more wild than usual.

Last Wednesday, this 33 or 34-day party was over. Heaven sent rain; normality was back.

Normality in Paris is a year-round gaggle of tourists milling around the métro exit at Palais-Royal.

They are taking photos of each other. They have just come out of the métro and are on their way to the Louvre across the street, or they have just come back from there. They are looking at their free maps or the métro's free map. They are discussing what they are going to do next or where they are going to go.

It isn't a group. It is not a 'gaggle;' it is not a cohesive flock of geese. These are individual visitors who have arrived in Paris, from all parts of our globe. This might be their first visit to Paris; it might be their only visit. Being at this particular métro stop makes sense. Your being here at the same time is pure chance.

tour-ist - noun. A person who is traveling for pleasure. -adj. Also tour-is-tic. Of or for tourists.

My big red dictionary has no special distinction for the plural form: tour-ists, but I would say it means 'more than one tourist.' The other key words are 'traveling' and 'pleasure.' All of these are fairly simple words; the act of 'traveling' is often complicated, but 'pleasure' is pretty fundamental to mankind.

At Palais-Royal, if you watch for a minute or two, you will see that what seems to be a crowd of people is actually a number of small groups and even some individuals.

Most of them are interacting within their own groups. The individuals have their own agendas. Hardly anybody is 'sightseeing;' gazing at the surrounding scene - the only thing going on is personal interaction.

Except for when the museum is closed or it is night, you can always see this scene at this métro exit. It isphoto: pool-side anti-paraders really a part of Paris. The presence of these people here, causes no harm. They are having a good time; they are having 'pleasure.'

In contrast, these are residents - not at the Bastille Day parade.

If you want to write to ask how you can avoid this, do so. If I feel like being really honest, I'll tell you to stay home. If you don't want to see any tourists engaging in 'pleasure,' you can do it without the hassle of traveling and do it for free.

But this answer is not encouraging. You may as well ride the métro out to Oberkampf and take in the Café Charbon. You might get to it before they get around to chalking up its menu in Cyrillic.

A Little Weather Report

Some miracle happened to arrange the weather for the World Cup so that for games in Paris, the weather was right. It wasn't too hot, too cold, too grey, and I don't think it rained at all when it counted.

The final game came off without a hitch last Sunday evening and a big party was held on the Champs-Elysées, which lasted all night long. Tuesday's Bastille Day parade had perfect weather. Although I was elsewhere outside, I had good weather too, without quite knowing what to do with it.

This was not the case on Wednesday, 15. July. The party was over and it was time to 'be normal.' This dragged drearily on and the sun finally managed to peep out again yesterday.

In much of the rest of France, especially the south, the weather has been really fine. Seeing TV with people on beaches with few clothes on has been like seeing reports from another planet.

This fine weather has now taken a jump upscale, and many parts of France have temperatures starting at 25 on the channel and going up to over 40 in some interior spots. These numbers are accompanied by heavy air and local thunderstorms are expected - and these can be violent.

Temperatures over 40 can be dangerous and when these are the case you should drink a lot of water and do as little as possible. The 'don't do's should be self-evident, so I won't bother listing them.

The Tocqueville Connection This Week:

The Tocqueville Connection' says that France experienced a burst of 'Patriotic Fervor' on Bastille Day and President Jacques Chirac was pretty emotional about it at the Elysée Palace's little garden party for 6000 close friends and their football team after the traditional parade.

For some reason, Jean-Marie Le Pen was quoted as saying something silly; which reminded me that France has had better things to do for the past five weeks, than quote anything Le Pen says.

Let ShareLook Help You Look

I like the new search service called 'Sharelook,' so I've decided to move it to Metropole's Liks Page. You'll find it there this week, to help you find what you want in Paris, France and elsewhere in Europe.


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