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August 8, 2007

European Camp Daddy - Day 10: Second Day in Paris

Arc de Triomphe

It's nice not to be moving around so much as we were in Ireland. We don't have a car in Paris. Instead, we rely on the Metro, the buses, and the RER train to get around the city.

We're camped in a tiny, claustrophobic hotel room in the Rue Cler district, but it has a refrigerator, and since we're not moving around any more, we can buy food for the fridge, and wine for the room. I've been working my way slowly through a cheap bottle of remarkably bad Cabernet.

I like being in Paris. I mean, don't get me wrong...I like shooting frogs at night with a rifle in Shelbyville, but I like being in Paris as well. It's a spectacular city. One of the things I like most about it is comparing it to New Orleans. The architecture is very similar, down to the gas lamps on the street. It's fun to be here and see why the streets in New Orleans are all "Rue This" and "Rue That".

All of the television stations are in French, except for CNN, but it's "World CNN". I would just watch that, but Jennifer is more adventurous. She watches the French channels, although I'm sure she doesn't have a clue what they're saying.

Jen has watched some cartoons like La Secret Show and La Chouette. Last night they were running a Tom Sellek Magnum PI episode dubbed in French, and today they were showing the Simpsons dubbed in French, both of which were pretty bizarre.

I could not get my international electricity converter to work in France, so this was a major problem. It meant that when my laptop ran out of electricity, I'd be dead in the water. I use my laptop to copy photos from my camera, track my expenses, check email, maintain website, etc. Without it, I'm hosed in a big way.

After breakfast on Rue Cler, we found an Internet Café, and they showed me how to make my electricity converter work in France. Basically, you have to ignore the ground plug. So, the converter I already had worked with the North European plug, but I didn't have faith. The guy at the internet café showed me the way.

"Merci. Merci bou coup. Au revoir."

It's sad, really, that French is a dying language. All the European languages are dying out. Nearly everyone you meet in France speaks English. We try to speak French, as best we can. And the French are glad for that, but they're just so inundated with American tourists that don't speak French, it's inevitable that the French learn to speak English. And once the French have learned to speak English, the younger generation doesn't see any real need to learn French. This is true of all of the languages, and it's inevitable, but it's sad as well.

I looked up the address of the Disney Store on Champs Elysees on the internet, and we hopped the Metro there. Jennifer has the Metro figured out now. She navigates and I just follow her through the subway. She has all the lines figured out. We have our Metro passes, so we just ride for free anywhere we want now.

At the Arc de Triomphe, we climbed 286 steps to the top. It's a really cool view of Paris, because 12 boulevards radiate out from the arc; it's the hub of western Paris. They began building the Arc de Triomphe for the million man French army(La Grande Armée) when they were on a roll back in 1806. But in 1812, Napoleon decided to invade Russia and his venture failed. Exiled to the island of Elba, he escaped, raised an army, and fought a final100 day campaign before his infamous, spectacular defeat by Prussian and British forces under command of Lord Wellington at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. The man that had conquered all of Europe, spent his final days exiled on the South Atlantic island of St. Helena in a crude shack talking to his dog.

They stopped construction on the Arc at that point and resumed construction on the arc in 1824, finally completing it in 1836.

The British, so excited to have finally defeated the French, created their own arch for Lord Wellington in London named, appropriately enough, Wellington's Arch.

After touring the Arc de Triomphe, Jennifer wanted to see Ratatouie. So, we crashed at the room for about 2 hours, to give her time to recharge. There's no air conditioning, so we have the windows open and a man is singing in one of the rooms. I can't tell if he's singing in Italian or French. I wouldn't know, but he has a great voice and he's singing in his room and I'm reminded of that scene in The Shawshank Redemption where Tim Robbins plays the opera singer over the prison's intercom until they break down the doors.

He has a great voice and I think how nice it is to be in a cosmopolitan city like Paris with people like this, and I send Jennifer climbing out the window to run around on the roof and find him, and she does. She finds him and comes back laughing and smiling.

"There's a man, daddy, in that room playing an accordion and singing."

And she's hysterical with laughter and I'm glad we're in Paris.

When it's time to leave for the show, we descended into the Metro to head toward the theatre on Champs Elysses and Franklin D. Roosevelt.

I have taught Jennifer to navigate the Metro on her own. I follow her and make her find the way to our destinations. She has to find the Metro portals, choose the right line, direction, and stop. I only follow her. If she makes a mistake, I'll correct her, but I'm teaching her to live without me.

I don't tell her this, but I'm doing this on purpose, because I don't know how much longer I'll be around. Maybe I'll be around for another 60 years. Or maybe I'll be hit by a bus tomorrow. But, either way, one day, she'll need to be able to make it on her own. So, I'm preparing her for that day.

She navigates the Metro like a trooper.

"See, daddy. I got it all figured out. Just follow me."

And, most of the time, she does a good job of it. Memorizing the Metro is not my goal for her though. My goal is to teach her to navigate airports and Metros on her own. To read maps and read signs. So that the world isn't just this big mysterious place that dad drags her through, but a place that can be comprehended and understood and navigated successfully with a little effort.

On the Number One Line, between the "La Tour Maubourg" and the "Invalides" stops, the Metro makes an unusually sharp turn, and the train sings and howls as it navigates the turn in the darkness. A symphony of industrial age steel howling through the turn, like the sound of a finger run around the rim of a wine glass. And you can hear all the different octaves, in higher and lower frequencies, resonating through the tunnel. It's not a harsh noise, but a comforting one, and every time we go through the turn, I close my eyes and listen to the music of the train. I wish I could bottle it, like a lightning bug in a mason jar and take it home with me, but I cannot.

In the Metro, we pass countless ads for Ratatouille. Disney and Pixar really have this figured out. There are giant ads underground in the Metro for Ratatouille. The Disney Store on the Champs Elysees is packed to the gills with Ratatouille merchandise, and it's playing in the theatre across the street. I think that we were so bombarded with advertisements, that we pretty much had to go watch the movie. Buying tickets to the show was like instinct. Like a salmon swimming upstream to spawn.

It's ironic that we saw the movie in Paris, as it is actually set in Paris. Jennifer knew this before we went in. I did not. So, it was kinda funny watching a movie with the Eiffel Tower in it, and then walking outside the theater and seeing the Eiffel Tower all lit up.

We really hit our stride today. It rained most of the day, but we still got out and saw some of the city. I'm not setting any alarm clocks. I let her sleep until she wakes up. And then we go out and see what we can get into.

If she wants to shop in a store that we have in Lakewood, and watch a movie we could see in Evergreen, then so be it. It's not up to me to make every decision on the trip. I got her to go to the Arc de Triomphe, and to walk around in Rue Cler, and I'm happy with that.

Posted by Rob Kiser on August 8, 2007 at 4:53 PM


ah....to be in Paris... When J is too old and has gone the way that young people go, maybe you can go with other family members...lol.Viva La France!

Posted by: sl on August 8, 2007 at 10:03 PM

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