Saturday saw Caiti and I in Paris. Caits is interested in a computer coding ‘learn by doing’ course organised by a group called 42. It’s a new set-up and it’s a three-year programme that teaches you coding completely for free. Of course, you have to find accommodation and at present there aren’t bourses for students, but that might change. But employment prospects look good at the end of it, so it’s something interesting for Caiti to be thinking about. There were around 20,000 initial applicants for the programme starting in November this year, and that’s been whittled down to 3,000, of which Caiti’s one. Now come three ‘piscines’ (pools) where 1,000 students will be working for a trial period of 4 weeks before the final batch are selected. Caiti is in the August piscine so we need to find her somewhere affordable to stay while she’s taking part, although there’s the option of living at the school, using the showers and microwave ovens it provides and sleeping on the floor! They’ve been warned they’ll be working 15 hour days so literally all they’ll do is eat, work and sleep.
Her information and registration session was at 11.30am in the 8eme arrondissement (quite a posh part). We left home at 5.30 am and drove to Chateauroux for the train. The last time I went to Paris for the book fair, a weekday, I’d paid €76 in fares, just for me, but this time we got there and back for €30 each. Definitely a bargain.
Paris was grey, drizzly and very quiet when we arrived.
We started off with a visit to the Shakespeare and Company English bookshop but that didn’t open till 11 am (lazy city people!), and we got there about 10 having arrived in Paris a little before 9.30, so we went in search of breakfast instead and then found where Caiti’s do was. Crowds were already gathering so I left her there and did some sightseeing for two and a half hours. I first went to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Sacre Coeur) without realising what it was, apart from a big church. A christening was underway. I pottered round then walked down to Place de la Madeleine with another colossal Church in it, and there was another christening going on. ‘Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring’ was playing on the colossal organ so I plopped down on a chair for a while to listen and watch – and rest my already aching feet!
The doors of the church have fantastic bronze bas relief work on them. I love that!
Then I set off for Place de la Concorde, along Rue Royale, window shopping as I went.
This is an area of pretentious shops – Burberry, Gucci, Chanel (with a €5670 pair of trousers on display), Ladurée macarons, Patrick Roger chocolates (small box was €76!), a jewellers with a gold candelabra for €61,200 (I’m guessing it was a cheap replica in the window) – and so on. Crazy.
Place de la Concorde was fairly quiet so I strolled around the Tuileries happily, avoiding joggers. I hadn’t realised before that the Musée de Jeu de Paume which is there was the German headquarters during the occupation. Literally across the road from it is the building where the Marshall Plan (the European Recovery Plan) was drawn up in 1948. One more famous spot in the Tuileries is the place where the first hot air balloon took off from in 1738, I think it was.
If you’ve never been to the Tuileries, you have to go. You’ll understand at once why there was a revolution in France. This vast garden with ponds, umpteen marble statues, walkways and trees was created as a recreational area for Catherine de Medici. It must have been a bit much for the poor Parisians living in grinding poverty to see their taxes frittered away on an amusement arcade for a pampered Queen. However, it’s a fabulous oasis of relative peace and quiet in Paris these days.
I came back with Caiti later and it was a lot busier. The scammers were out. Caits had told me about a couple of the popular current ones. One involves kids pretending to be deaf and dumb who beg for money using a written sign and big puppy dog eyes. Another involves someone picking up a ring from just in front of you and exclaiming loudly how valuable it is and offering it to you for €50. Well, we witnessed both of these! I was very impressed with Caiti’s research. Another scam you should know about is around the Montmartre mainly where lads leap at you and try and tie a friendship bracelet around your wrist. (We’d seen this on our visit in January of last year but not fallen prey to.) Once they tie the bracelet on, apparently they use a knot you can’t undo so you can’t take it off to give back to them so have to buy it.
All part of city life I guess.
Our intention was to visit the catacombs, but after we’d browsed round W H Smith’s and gone back to Shakespeare and Company, by the time we got there, there was a huge queue and it closed in an hour’s time at 5pm, surprisingly early. So we headed back to the Concorde to while away the time till the train. We were both at that state of exhaustion where you mindlessly plod along, looking for the next place to snatch a quick sit-down!
We noticed the flics had cordoned off a road and a few moments later discovered why. The 2013 Peking Paris rally was finishing. This is the toughest vintage car race in the world. I’ll have to blog properly about it another day. Unfortunately I couldn’t get my camera out quickly enough to take some pics. Here’s the poster for the event (www.paristopeking.net).
So it was a pleasant and interesting if very tiring day. Today will be a slow recovery day, but that said I was up at 7.30 and doing farm jobs for a couple of hours, as usual, and really appreciating being a country bumpkin. City life is exhausting. Actually, I’d appreciated it last night on the drive home when we came across a deer on the road, and a little while later several dozen rabbits on one side of the road all decided to run across to the other side, but I avoided squashing any. Just!
Paris is admittedly a beautiful city but I love Les Fragnes best.
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