What I like the most about being someone that travels are the little stories and little things that pass through our lives that make things memorable. Places have the ability to mark us in ways that nothing else can, they leave their imprint upon our minds and more importantly our very soul.
On our last trip to Paris my wife and I had dinner at the 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant in the Eiffel Tower. Our birthdays are only a day apart so we thought we would celebrate in style and have dinner in one of the most Iconic places in the world. As we were enjoying our dinner my wife noticed a young lady around twenty five years old, sitting alone at a table for two. She was nicely attired in a brightly coloured sun dress. Her hair was nicely done, and the accents for her outfit were well thought out, and complimented her well. In short she was elegantly dressed for a warm April evening in Paris.
Her table was set, with two glasses of Champagne, white linens, shining silverware, and she was surrounded by the hustle and bustle of a very busy restaurant. The atmosphere was nice but somehow she seemed sad, and it was my wife that noticed why that might be.
Propped up on a little stand was her mobile phone and on it could be seen a photo. The photo was of an older man, he was smiling in a pleasant way. He had grey hair and looked like a pleasant fellow. We couldn’t help thinking that this little vignette that was playing out was the result of tragedy. That perhaps there was a plan that had not taken shape, or a promise that could not be kept. Perhaps she was saying goodbye, to a father or grandfather and marking the end of her grief. We could see that she had been crying a little, she held a linen napkin at the ready.
In a way we were eavesdropping on a moment in time, a private time in a very public place. It is a moment that now lives on the minds of others. The moment is now a part of the place, it will live on in the young woman’s mind as the place where she said good bye. Paris was created by moments like this, in one place there is happiness and at the very next table there is sadness. There isn’t a street or a cafe that does not have its own unique story to tell, a story that is sometimes hidden from view. However, all that is required to read the story is to take a closer look.
One of the things that is always waiting for travelers when they reach their destination are those con artist that want to separate you, from your hard earned travel spending cash. One of the things that people usually overlook when they are planning a trip is there own personal security. Especially new travelers, naturally tend to look at the new and interesting places they are going to and usually leave caution, to when they are just about to leave.
One of the thing I like to stress is, “do your research” on where it is you want to go. One simple thing, that can be done is to start paying attention to news events for that particular place. Most major centers have English publications and can be easily accessed via internet. I think it is always wise to know the political and religious climate of places that I plan to travel to. Try to find out what social norms are for the place you are going, remember, you are going there to experience their culture. You are the visitor.
One of the ones I ran into in Paris was very clever and I didn’t realize I was being scammed until I was right in the middle of it. There is a tunnel that goes from the Arc de Triomphe under the multiple lanes of traffic and exits at the the Champs Elysees. This creates a natural bottle neck for tourists and funnels them into a little gauntlet of teen-aged scammers that I am sure are handled by an older ring leader that is of to the side some place. The rush forward and ask you to sign a petition for the school for the deaf in perfect English. My daughter had already signed the petition before I could stop her, So rather than refuse the scam and get into some potential trouble, I gave them two euros to which they said that wasn’t enough, and that they preferred paper money. I didn’t comply with their request, and beat a hasty retreat along the busy shopping street.
One other Item to watch for are the water sellers. These people are found at all of the major attractions in most major cities like Paris and Rome, So here is the scam, the bottles they use are often pulled from the trash and refilled with fountain water, from the fountains that are found all over these wonderful cities. My advise is to invest in your own water bottle and fill it yourself or purchase your own water. Never ever, purchase water from a guy that looks like he hasn’t bathed in years or has tapped on shoes, you wouldn’t do that at home so don’t do it when you travel.
The Next one I fell victim to was in Rome, It wasn’t a bad scam, and the women was rather pleasant. She had two birds that she would place on your shoulder and they would sing and whistle. Of coarse you need to take a photo of this so she then promptly asks for a donation. I really didn’t mind this one to much, it was a nice day and I was out for a stroll with my daughter in Rome.
The biggest thing that people can do to protect themselves is to be aware of there surroundings. These scams I mention here are just the ones that worked on me. There were plenty of others that didn’t. There are plenty of web sites out there that travelers post on about scams and things that they have experienced. The more things you know about the places you go the more safe you are going to be.
My family and I made ourselves aware of the possible scams that were out there before we traveled. It is because of this that they really didn’t affect our trip one way or the other. We did the research and became aware of what could happen before we went.
|Arc du Triomphe|
One of the high lights of this trip was the Paris tour by night. Most people see Paris in the day light hours and spend the evening in the cafes and restaurants having a grand old time. Many do not take the time to see this wonderful place in all of its brilliance.
My wife, through her tireless research discovered there are only two tour operators that offer night tours for the city of Paris. The first is Le Open Tours and the second is Big Bus Tours. Both companies offer Hop on Hop off tours in the day time and offer bundled discounts for those that wish to combine the tours. However the night tours are an additional fee to the day time price. It should also be noted that the night tour for either operator is not a Hop on Hop off excursion.
In the end we decided to go with the Big Bus Tours because their pick up point was closer to our hotel. The only deciding factor between the two operators was the distance of the pick up point from our hotel. With Le Open tours we would have had to meet at their office which was farther away and we would have had to make arrangements to get there while the Big Bus stop was two minutes walking distance from the hotel. We booked these tickets before we left on our trip and had the voucher in hand when we arrived at the tour. It made things easy and quick and there was no need to for the exchange of cash with the driver. We rode on the top level of the Double Decker bus and started our tour. The late September evening air was little cool but with a light jacket it was quite comfortable. The tour started with a spin around the Arc du
Triomphe which is an amazing monument. Most people don’t realize this place is war memorial that commemorates many of the glorious and tragic events in Frances past. It also houses the eternal flame for the unknown soldier and is especially poignant at night time.
Next we were off to the Eiffel tower and the Trocadero, to see the tower with thousands of twinkling lights was breath taking to say the least. There are a number of different angles that this monument can be photographed, so you will want to have your camera ready for those awesome shots. Seeing this old structure in all of its illuminated glory, one can truly see why it is the ever lasting image of Paris.
The tour made its way around all of the usual sights, the Paris Opera House, The Louvre, Notre Dame de Paris, and of coarse the Moulin Rouge just to name a few. The tour itself took about two hours and we were finished and heading back to our hotel around 11:30.
We saw many of the same sites that were seen during the day time tours and to be honest I was a little concerned that this excursion might be a waste of time. However I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. Anyone can travel to Paris and see the sights and get lost in all of the touristy things that are there, however this excursion was definitely something I would do again if the the opportunity ever came up.
for me this tour added something to my love of Paris. The illumination of all of the wonderful buildings and cafes and the places filled with lovers was something that will be remembered. It gives almost a magical quality to the place that you just don’t get during the day time hours.
|Hotel du Louvre|