Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: WEEKEND AWAY (short vacation) (07/23/15)
TITLE: Paris or Paree - A Choice of Two Great Towns
By Noel Mitaxa
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I inadvertently added to the insult by mentioning my intended list of Paris sights, which somehow sounded like I was demeaning the energy of its residents. Despite this, I was looking forward to my first visit; a weekend of culture.
Descending to Charles de Gaulle Airport included a Left Banking turn over the River Seine, when I caught a glimpse of the majestic Arc de Triomphe: an island in a sea of vehicles navigating their way through a kind of tag-team wrestling match. With drivers honking and gesticulating in the pressure of finding gaps in the maelstrom, I could almost hear their horns from inside the plane. The chaos contrasted sharply with the gracious avenues radiating from―or converging on―this famous monument, so I hope that someday, someone will avenue idea of how to simplify it all.
Heading into town from the airport terminal, I was dismayed to see a famous cathedral enclosed in bread crumbs, thin plastic sheeting and grease-proof paper. My driver explained this as, “Ze lunch-wrap of Notre Dame.” So where do Hugo from there?
I got an Eye-ful of a tower whose frame was erected in 1889, but it’s still incomplete! Ei-ffelt that they could have got it at least half-finished way in all that time; until I learned of the sad death of its designer. While trying to gain an extra perspective from its apex, he clearly did not realise the gravity of what was involved; for ’E ffeil over one thousand feet (or three hundred and twenty metres) to the ground below. It was a quick way to metre his Maker.
Germany has surrendered its deutschmark; Italy the lire and Greece the drachma. France has also joined the European currency: the euro - which, to be franc - is much easier for calculations if you loan money to anyone, for you’ll always know how much eur-owed.
My introduction to Gallic fatalism came as I paid my driver at the hotel―a building which the French for some strange reason call “l’hotel.” “C’est la vie!” my taxi driver told me with a shrug, so I also shrugged. And replied, “Okay; I’ll say ‘la vie.’” He looked more puzzled than pleased.
Maybe he wanted a tip.
With appetising fragrances wafting towards my lace-covered tablecloth in the l’hotel’s oak-panelled restaurant, I asked the waiter if he had frog’s legs. “Non, monsieur,” he replied, “I always walk this way.”
I settled for a dish of selected cheeses – I think they came from “age” – and croissants; a word the French use because they cannot pronounce “bread roll.” I considered ordering strawberries for dessert, but I couldn’t remember the correct French fraise to use.
After dinner I went to see Les Miserables, but nobody told me which cast member was named Les. And worse, some members of the orchestra were almost Paris-itic; for they only started playing when the conductor looked in their direction.
The next day, strolling along the tree-lined elegance of the Champs Elysses, I found Rue de Remarques; a narrow street where buses line the kerb. This street was named from the abusive exchanges between drivers and passengers as they rush to get on board and to get moving.
However a fleet of smaller, windowless vehicles offered art lovers like me an exclusive way to the Louvre museum, with a
The Louvre’s famous Renaissance Masters collection includes one painting whose smile has equally puzzled and delighted critics. But careful research has cracked this enigma―revealing that the lady in question was constantly complaining through clenched teeth about Leonardo’s laborious methods―so her portrait became known as the Moana Lisa.
As expected, the Louvre includes French Impressionists like Mondrian, Cezanne―with so Manet others to choose from. It might st some art lovers’ sensibilities to criticise their work; but one artist’s love of scratching around in his garden so detracted from his painting style that he was dubbed “Clawed” Monet.
Such a full weekend, and I only tickled the surface of what this beautiful city has to offer its eight million residents - and all those who come and fall under its spell.
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