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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 tell you....


Honfluer, Normandy
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 in Cambodia.


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.



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