A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: sethnmon

The Last Late Entry

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This is the last of it!

The Eiffel Tower

Today was a nice day at the Eiffel Tower. We visited in the morning and encountered very few people traveling. The metro and the streets seem to be a bit empty in the mornings we’ve noticed until probably about 10:30 or 11am. The temperature and the greenery that is beginning to blossom now made for a really nice addition to the Tower visit.

Observations: the poor deaf children all over the world?

As we were visiting the Eiffel Tower we had very aggressive teenage kids coming up to us constantly. They would approach us making any conglomerate of ridiculous hand motions trying to get us to read what they had on a clipboard they were carrying. If you happen to stop and look at the clipboard it would say something like “I am a deaf person raising money for the blah blah…..” and then you would see several blank lines where people have signed their name and how much money they “donated” to the cause. We having seen these same kids in Peru doing the same charades, we new better. The funny thing is that they expect a donation of at least 10 Euros (about 15 dollars US) for their thievery. They are criminals so stay away from them and don’t look at them. If you don’t look at them and lift your hand up in front of your face they sort of get the picture but expect them to pursue you a bit. Their little method is to walk right in front of you, looking away, and bump into you lightly and then turn around looking surprised (like because they are deaf they didn’t know you where there) and then they shove their clipboard in front of your face. They walk up to a crowd; rob them blind of “donations” and then walk away talking to each other about what they just made. What? Wait a minute I thought they couldn’t hear? Nope, as soon as they gets your money they don’t care if you hear them conversing amongst themselves. I guess the jokes on you and again France in all of its tolerance puts up with these idiots walking around as there are plenty of lazy “security/ national police” just standing around watching as it occurs. One of the 6 or 7 kids who approached us was a pregnant girl who would’ve bumped right into Monica’s Mother’s broken arm but I stiff armed her a bit before she could. She turned with an angry face and tried to shove me but before she knew it she had three people yelling at her in Columbian Spanish pointing at a very bruised up and broken mom. She recanted and sulked away realizing she almost knocked into a poor elderly woman’s injury. From my tone you may start realizing that we are getting sick of Paris. Please if you ever travel and encounter these poor people DON’T give them anything. They stole from several people already and it is theft they are committing.

Posted by sethnmon 02:57 Archived in France Comments (0)

The Ultimate Excuse: its an antique

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No it not broken...its an antique

Well this last week in Paris we stayed in an apartment and it was certainly full of surprises. I would recommend trying to find something more modern and less of an "antique." If we had payed 500-600 Euros for this I would understand but we payed far more. In Paris anyone can rent out an apartment that is terribly under code and falling apart for a very high sum of money per week. In fact if you rented only two apartments out for the sum of money we are paying each week you would be making well over 40,ooo dollars a year; not bad! Its especially not bad when you can tout all the broken and decrepit stuff in the house as "antique" and not pay to have it replaced. Reminds me of the Middle East where the poor workers have to go scavenge things to replace broken stuff or where they simply have to improvise (duck tape) many of the broken things back together. Oh the outlet in the wall fell out, its an antique; the wheels on the table are falling out, it an antique; there where antique stuff everywhere in this old heap. Just to mention some more paint flaking of the windows, floor boards with massive cracks in them so you pinch your socks and feet in them, an old shower curtain with "antique" mold growing on it, cupboards that have knobs falling out of them, and that's not all! Maybe I'm being too critical (I really don't think so) but if I were renting out an apartment I would update the broken and old stuff and try to leave some of the antique fixtures in to give it some nice decor. I don't want the table coming down on one of my guests because the legs are broken and I don't want anyone falling backwards in one of my chairs because the legs are coming of the seat. I don't want the people to have to "leave the windows open while you take a shower and while the washer and dryer are going" because there is no ventilation in the house. I certainly don't want anyone to have to try and repair an outlet in the house because it's the only outlet ear the bed and end up getting electrocuted in the process! Now, if we hadn't stayed in any other apartments in France we may not have anything to compare to but we have stayed in a couple already. The last really old apartment we stayed in had an updated bathroom and other important parts that made it comfortable. It is frustrating when this type of thing occurs because these little things can so easily be remedied and the end result would not have been so bitter. This type of experience seals the deal for Monica and I that we will certainly not come back to this place and we will not recommend it. The definition for "antique" over the years has certainly changed because we have shopped for antiques and these are certainly not antiques they're more like trash. I know this post is not going to prevent anyone from not coming here just because it is Paris but if you are friends and family and you are coming to Paris and will rent an apartment please contact us and let us know so we can help you find a place and redirect you away from this place. This place actually got some nice reviews no doubt because people are wearing their "rose colored" Paris glasses on when they come here but we aren't fooled. I have no doubt that the people who own this place are friendly enough but Monica and I were disappointed in the professional quality of the place and its upkeep.

Posted by sethnmon 01:42 Archived in France Comments (0)

Sacre Coeur

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Sacre Coeur

Monica, her dad, and I took a short break from the hospital and went up to Sacre Coeur on top of a hill on the North end of Paris. The church or basilica that sits atop this hill is pretty magnificent and with the exception of the Eiffel Tower it boasts the best view of Paris in town. There is a set of steps leading up to the top of the landing where the church is and it is really quite interesting and the view is spectacular on a clear day. If you want to get your portrait done by the artists who are wandering around ask to see a picture that they’ve already done or go up behind a couple and watch to see if you like what they do. We got a chance to watch two artist’s sketch two separate people and one turned out okay and the other was spectacular and very professional quality.

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Posted by sethnmon 12:42 Archived in France Comments (0)

The Accident

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Accident

We came back to Paris finally and met up with Monica’s Parents. Most of our plans were cut quite short by a tragedy that occurred on Tuesday the 5th. I will not go into great detail but Monica’s mother took a very terrible fall down a flight of stairs. In almost every place in Paris and other places in France the bathroom is in the basement. You must traverse a long set of stairs, usually winding, and get to the bathroom at the bottom. These stairs are generally normal width at the edges but closer in toward where the stairs curve they get extremely narrow. Not only this, but the stairs are very steep and it may be more realistic to get on a climbing harness and “rope in” to go to the bathroom. Compared to all countries I’ve visited, these staircases would be such a safety hazard to most building codes that the places would probably be closed down. Anyway, when the accident happened Monica and I again used our medical training to aid her mom as much as we could until the ambulance arrived. Its one thing holding a stranger’s head to stabilize the neck and not knowing if the person will make it or not, and another thing totally to hold your mother-in-law’s head wondering the same. This is something I hope I never have to do again but I really need to express that if you do not have medical training it is incredibly valuable to have and I highly recommend getting some. I am not overexaggerating this but her fall really should have been lethal. She hit her head first then literally tumbled down the rest of the way to the bottom. We spent the next two days at the hospital battling the French health care system to get the service she needed. This is a totally separate blog altogether. Miraculously, she came out of this with a broken wrist, many terrible bruises, and a concussion. Thankfully, there have been no more complications.

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Posted by sethnmon 12:16 Archived in France Comments (0)

Notre Dame

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Notre Dame

Imagine being at an amusement park waiting in line at the coolest ride. The line is a couple hundred feet long but it’s moving pretty fast. Now take away the roller coaster and instead plug in a big giant church in Paris. Now imagine that you enter this big giant impressive church and the entire middle section is roped off for a musical engagement that night so that the only available walking room is a 5 or 6 meter wide path that goes around the edge of the church. All those people flowing into the Notre Dame are squeezed into this one path like ocean water being pushed through the middle of two islands producing waves and fast water. Except that we’re not talking about efficient water moving quickly we are talking about slow people, all with their own idea of what they will do inside the church, where and what they will take pictures of, and where they want to walk. The funniest part of this whole thing is that the end of one of the routes is a dead end, and there are so many people crammed into this journey that you don’t really find out until you’re looking at the wall! Everyone sort of stops and looks around very confused that there is no way out of this grid lock. So…you simply turn around and walk back. You walk back realizing the rest of the crowd coming toward you is in for a real treat and you just keep going!

Don’t get me wrong, the stained glass was beautiful, the candles attractive, and the architecture magnificent but there is one thing about a church that we seemed to miss. Oh yeah, the quiet serenity! I couldn’t tell if I was in the Paris subway station waiting for the #1 train to come rolling down the tracks or in a church, it definitely felt much like the metro. Also, every so often one of the church staff would give out a loud “SSSHHHHHHHHHHHHH,” attempting to quiet every one down, and everyone would quiet down for about one minute and then get loud again! The reason for this shushing was because the mass was actually going while the tourists were coming in. Kind of silly for the two to be happening at the same time! For us the amusement park atmosphere and what this tourist attraction has turned into was a bit of a turn off in the end. Hope you have better chances if you go!

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Posted by sethnmon 12:03 Archived in France Comments (1)

Forgot to Post Mont St. Michel

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We're doing a bit of catch up due to not having internet available at some of our locations so here's Mont St. Michel!

A Day Trip to Mont Saint Michel

Sometimes we come away from an experience of seeing a site and think “was that it.” We had built up so much excitement about the particular event that when we actually got there and finished, it is kind o the same feeling you get after opening presents at Christmas. This was nothing like that. This was really a magnificent experience and I highly recommend any and every one to see this place. A massive fortified monastery off the Normandy coast, it is something you don’t get to see that often. Although it had meager beginnings, it is a now a monolith of a piece of architecture. You’ll find yourself winding through stone arches and hallways into some huge sanctuaries and some small ones. Honestly if I was a monk staying in the monastery (it is still an active monastery) I think the thing I would be praying for most often would be to find the bathroom and the cafeteria again. There are so many stair cases, hallways, little rooms, big rooms, alleys, corridors, and nooks that we thought we would get lost if it weren’t for the little signs prompting us and directing throughout the visit. Also there is a little town built up around the monastery that really looks quite unique as no cars are able to drive through the city anymore. The little tourist shops are similar to the ones in Carcassone but with the exception that you can find much more quality stuff mixed in with all the junk. This is a place to start saving for!

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Posted by sethnmon 11:50 Archived in France Comments (0)

The Fun Starts Here

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Robbed on the Paris Metro

Yeah, no matter what you do sometimes you can’t avoid the entire bunch of “wrong place wrong time” experiences and boy was this one. Sometimes the best you can do is try to be diligent in the moment. Monica and I had been traveling from Caen in the North West back to Paris via train and two metro trips and we were very tired. Due to the constant picking up of the suitcases to travel up and down stairs I (Seth) was really tired and we both had gotten only a few hours of sleep the night prior. Well, we were on the home stretch and had just hopped on the number 11 metro to our final destination and it was kind of a packed car. Suddenly four or five small 12-14 year old girls hopped on the metro behind me but the strange thing was they weren’t going to find seats; they just stayed around me in a circle. Now you may have read countless warnings like I have about the tactics used in pick pocketing but until it happens to you it is hard to imagine what it’s really like, and believe me the pros are really good at it. I always keep my wallet in my inside coat pocket zipped up but today I spilled diesel fuel on my jacket and it was in a bag waiting to be washed (don’t even ask, long story)!

Seemingly all at once I started to feel like these small girls were nudging and tapping me on various parts of my body attempting to draw attention away from my closed back pocket, where my wallet was, and before you know it they jumped off just as the door was shutting to leave. These girls were pros. Feeling something was up, I quickly checked my pockets and immediately noticed my wallet was gone; I slammed the door latch open and ran after the girls. They were surprised and one girl, the one with my wallet actually re-entered the metro at the back end of the metro. Generally the thieves have an egress plan that involves most of the participants scattering in several different directions and in this case the girl with my wallet went to the last place I would’ve checked, back on the metro car. I started hounding them loudly saying “GIVE IT BACK” really loud and created a scene (just about the only thing I believe you can do, I especially don’t recommend getting violent in a country like this, imagine the response to a large adult man grabbing a small girl in a country where you don’t speak the language and the girl screaming in French, “Rape!”) This is the true genius and ugly truth of using small girls to do this job. Anyway, during my attempts to get back my wallet a local native Paris resident on the train pointed at the girl who had hopped back on the train and the gig was up for her so she gave me back the wallet. Off course, not after she had lightened it of all my cash (total loss 342$). I got the wallet and started checking for my cards and identification and gratefully it was all there; the girl was long gone. If this happens to you or if you see this happen don’t sit their passively like an inert buffoon like 99% of the people, instead get involved because the more people there are to help coral the thieves (especially if they’re children) the better the outcome will be. I don’t know what the laws concerning this type of crime is in France but I left her alone because first I am in a very (possibly over) tolerant socialist system society that may protect people, especially children, from false accusation and I don’t think 99% of the people on the metro were about to help testify to seeing these kids do this. The truly unfortunate thing is these kids are pimped out by someone collecting the cash they steal and god knows what terrible life they go back too. I go back to a nice apartment and get to see sites the next day while they are consigned to a life of crime in fear of whomever they answer too.

Lesson learned: lanyard your wallet off, put the wallet inside a zipper pocket inside your coat, never put your wallet in your back pocket-keep in front where you have a good periphery, try not to be a target by lugging around all your suitcases all over town if it’s possible, be constantly aware of where you are in relation to other people, when you go from one place to another check your pockets, use certain points as an event to check your pockets (going through the metro gate, getting to your platform, getting on the metro, etc…) and always go by the adage “if something feels wrong, then it probably is,” trust your intuition, if you are traveling and a group of people start simultaneously shoving into you--you are probably getting robbed and quickly take hold of your wallet, it may sound stupid but do some drills to were your first fast reaction is to grasp your wallet. That’s all I can think of for now, please learn from my experience and don’t get lazy or complacent.

Posted by sethnmon 11:47 Archived in France Comments (1)

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