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June 03, 2003

Today we spent a full day walking around Paris in sweltering heat. We started at the Notre Dame cathedral, a massive example of beautiful architecture that took over 200 years to build (and you thought your contractor was slow).

Notre Dame was also the only place I saw anyone begging for change in Paris. Iīm not sure if Paris hides their street vagrants from tourists ala the Giuliani method in New York, but I didnīt see any.

There are a lot of guys, who all look East-Indian but Iīm not sure, who try to sell you postcards and Eiffel tower trinkets. Theyīre not annoying though, and usually just walk around clinking their Eifffel towers around to get your attention.

A lot has been made of French rudeness towards tourists, often stemming from the fact that they donīt enjoy speaking English. I think this is a great thing, as the French are very proud of their culture and do everything they can to protect it.

The result is a society that makes you feeel far from home, which canīt be said for all countries that are becoming increasingly Americanized.

Speaking of Americans, a fun game to play in Paris is "Spot The Obese American." Now Iīm not suggesting that all Americans are obese, Canada is a close second when it comes to obesity levels, but when you a see a 300-pounder wading their way through the Parisian streets theyīre usually draped in a XXXXL T-shirt bearing the logo of their favorite American football team.

So if youīre a particularly obvious North American, do your best to fit in and try speaking a little French when interacting. A simple bonjour will show that youīre making the effort and go a long ways .

Next we checked out the Eiffel tower, which was built for a world fair and declared an eyesore by the French. It would have been torn down had the government not stepped in to preserve it. It also has a large net around it at the bottom now because hundreds of suicidal Parisians were jumping from it.

After that we walked to the Arc de Triomph, built by Napoleon for his troops to walk through upon their return home. Surrounding the Arce is the worldīs largest traffic circle (10 lanes!) and I have no idea how these people manage to navigate through it.

Itīs basically one gigantic circle of chaos with cars zooming around as they please and somehow everyone exits the circle unscathed.

Lastly, we checked out the Hotel des la Invalides, also built by Napoleon, for his troops that were injured in battle. It is a massive structure and is the location of Napoleonīs tomb.

People often say that if there were one European city they wish they could spend more time in it would be Paris and itīs easy to see why.