After a month in Paris, I get a feel of the city, and so I sail out every morning to explore. Since I don’t even try to follow the twists and turns of innumerable little ancient streets by myself, I consult a paper map and construct a pedestrian expedition according to the weather and the mood. This is sort of exploring for dummies. First, take the familiar bus 21 to Le Louvre – Rivoli. Then just walk along Rue de Rivoli, gazing at every souvenir stall and every shop in the arcades. No, those shops are not the same. For the life of me I cannot figure out the principle on which the prices are based. In one shop, there are kitchen aprons with Parisian views printed all over, €12 each. I gradually walked to a stall where they were offered for €7, 3 for €15. Go figure. Across the Tuilleries Gardens, and you emerge at Place de La Concorde which boasts the title of the largest square in the city. I am astonished to see the Eiffel Tower to my left. Sure I know it’s much farther away than it looks, but still, in my directionally challenged perception it is somewhere else! In front of me is the magnificent impossibly wide and now very green Champs Élysées, with the Arc de Triomphe. I take some time to stare at this spectacular view, then turn right to Rue Royale and follow the road to La Madeleine, a church built in the eighteenth century in the Greek style, with lots of tall columns. It is a very imposing building totally different from all the medieval and gothic churches I have seen. Though I suspect one can cut a corner and get back to Rivoli via Rue St. Honore, I backtrack, to be on the safe side. Back in the Gardens I stop by at the toilet and leave my excess fluids there for a modest sum of 70 cents. Wash my hands, comb my hair and go! Walking back on Rue RIvoli, I check the streets to my left until very soon I see the tall column on Place Vendome. In a twist of fate, many jewellery shops are situated there now. No guillotine in sight. Back to Rivoli, and to Jeanne d’Arc monument.
Then to the river, find the Conciergerie building, Notre Dame, and we are home free. A nice long trek of about 3 hours, depending on how often you stop to take pictures, to look at souvenirs, and to find your way. Absolutely lovely, all of it.
Naturally one feels a bit tired and hungry by lunch time. I went into a store to buy some food, handed them a €100 note, and they stared at me, at the money, then delivered a long tirade. Though I didn’t get all of it I understood enough: for whatever reason they sometimes do not want to accept large notes. There is really only one way to overcome this problem that I found. Into a pause, I said politely, “Sorry, I don’t speak French”. Ah, what a surprise! Everybody gathered around me at once. At first they tried the familiar method of talking at me loudly and slowly; I just spread my hands and tried to look helpless. A manager appeared from his ivory tower finally got the situation at a glance and said indulgently, ” Cette pauvre etranger!” So the poor stranger or foreigner was given her change and everybody lived happily ever after.