Preparing for the Gauls
May 18, 2001
I thought Charles De Gaulle was making a joke when he said "China
is a big country, inhabited by many Chinese" until I actually
went to China and realized his statement is just about the only
truthful and profound thing you can say about that immense country.
Mr. De Gaulle also said something about France being difficult
to govern because it makes many types of Cheese. I'm not sure
if I'll get to the bottom of that one on this trip.
What I do know for certain is that you've all seen what
the Eiffel tower looks like. In fact when you consider that
France receives more tourists than any other country in the
world, it's probably safe to say that the amount of film spent
here has made everyone in the world very familiar with the sights
of this country.
So I give you the following selection of images. Images you
may not have seen, some you have definitely not. If it gives
you any insight into the French, let me know, because as you
can see in this picture, I read the book and the French are
still Greek (or Chinese) to me.
The streets of Paris
May 18 - June 01
It is my fourth time in Paris and the first stop on this trip
that is (at least a little) familiar to me. So I've seen the
Louvre, done the Jardin de Luxembourg and swished through Versailles.
This time I just wanted to get to know Paris, not it's famous
sights but for why it thinks so highly of itself.
So I walked. And walked and walked and soaked it up and now
I know the secret of Paris. If you want to know, you'll have
to walk a lot too. Or you can send me a lot of money and I'll
May 29, 2002
Calvados was a place before it became an apple Brandy. It still
is a place these days, though the casual tourist might be forgiven
for mistaking the two. Every shop, shack and outhouse seems
to have an apple orchard attached to its rear and a sign selling
Brandy on its front.
The Fields of Normandy
Near Arromanches, Normandy
May 30, 2002
Arromanches is the town smack in the middle of the Allied landing
area of Gold Beach. The images of violence we have all seen
in grainy black and white contrast sharply with the color images
of tranquility in evidence today. Nevertheless, knowing what
took place in fields just like this one, leaves behind a tangible
sense of melancholy even stronger than the one I felt in the
Bokor hill station
Singing for his supper
May 18, 2002
A gargoyle from Notre Dame Cathedral finds himself praying
for rain rather than disgorging it.
France as a metro
May 20, 2002
The first round of Frances presidential election stunned the
nation by making a Fascist Racist candidate a front-runner.
Depending on who you voted for, Paris (particularly it's famous
Metro) is the perfect example of what is good/bad about immigration.
If you feel intimidated by being the only white native-French
speaker on the train, then you vote for Le Pen. If you look
around and feel smug that the whole world seems to want to move
to your town and grace it with it's quaint cultural sophistication,
you probably didn't vote in the first round. You waited until
the second and voted for Chirac.
The language that's fit to print
May 22, 2002
There is perhaps no other aspect of the French that is the
focus of more teasing than their rabid protection of their language.
Secretly jealous that it is the sexiest thing going, English
visitors all bemoan the lack of English labeling on signs and
English speaking in it's citizens. So let me jump on the bandwagon
for just a moment.
The only country where the language barrier was more of a factor
was China, and they have an excuse. They are China.
France is a modern country, part of the European Union and host
to more non-French speaking tourists than any country in the
world. So would it be ever so difficult to acknowledge the fact
that it is 2001, not 1701. French is no longer the language
of diplomacy, the French language does NOT have a better alternative
for 'le Weekend' and the former French colonies are learning
English, not French, as fast as they can.
Of course the fact that this is all true is sad. I don't want
the whole world to speak English and it is nice to know that
France will stubbornly stick to it's Lingua Franca no matter
what. Oh yeah, the picture shows a newsstand full of papers
in languages other than French.
The Sidewalk Cafe
May 18, 2002
We woke up in Cairo and a few hours later were part of that
thing which almost makes up for the the French being so . .
. French - the Parisian sidewalk cafe. Perhaps the best place
in the best city for people watching. Click on the picture to
see, then click once more to listen.