The French are like leopards and cannot change their cultural spots. Every restaurant has
great ambiance, so so food (Italian food is more varied and tastier, don’t forget it was Catherine Medici who came to
France through marriage and taught the French to cook) and arrogant contemptible service. I know, I know, I seem to be developing
a pet peeve theme of damming the wait staff of France. However not once in eating out on several occasions has a waiter been
welcoming, attentive, helpful, positive or pleasant. Instead you are received as an interruption to their work and not the
reason for it.I shouldn’t expect as much but I have standards that I hold Yorkville’s restaurants when
I dine in their establishment and challenge them. Haven’t you noticed the improvement over the years of the wait staff
in Yorkville? It’s my mentoring, badgering, educating that has changed the game. Even as disappointed as I am I will
continue to demand of the French restaurants a higher standard.
This day is Saturday and as we left the hotel
our ultimate goal was the church of Sacre Coeur. We passed through a pleasant neighbour heading north to cross over the Seine
at the Pont des Invalides. After our crossing on our right was the Grand Palais. A museum that looks like a massive Green
House with a wrought iron bird cage on top and a giant flag pole and Tricolour flag crowning it all off. Think of the ROM
four times the size and under glass and you’ve got the picture. I say of Toronto when I am touring that we have a small
number of large museums, the ROM, AGO and Bata and a large number of small museums like the Textile Museum, Sugar Museum,
Campbell House, the Mackenzie House and more. The opposite is true of Paris. There are a large number of large museums like
the Palais Royal, the Louver, Museum D’Orsay, Hotel des Invalides and more.
Beside the Palais Royal is a pleasant garden called the Swiss Garden. There are some lovely
statues that would grace any of our parks and two busts that reminded me of home. They were homages to Jacques Cartier and
Samuel Champagne. I am sure that all but Canadians, Canadians with a sense of history would know who these two were.
We continued one more block and came across the route to the Elysian Fields also know as the
Avenue des Champs Elysees. Here the tempo and volume of people increases with a United Nations of Benton from all over the
world. We have entered about mid point. To our left on a slightly rising incline is the Arch de Tromphe and to our right slopping
downward can be seen the gold tip of the obelisk that shines in the centre of Place de la Concorde. We chose to be sinners
and go left, “tournez à gauche” as they say in French which gives us our English word gauche
and all the ill meaning that word suggest.The
section where we entered is a park like setting and the fencing for crowd control has already been set up for the Bastille
Day Parade. Two blocks up we come across the first of the legendary stores of the Champs Elysees. Interestingly over a third
of them are American. Names like Tommy Hillfiger, and Abercrombie and Finch. The latter one having a line up of over 100 people
to get in. Of course the French were there with the likes of Cartier and the rest.
We try to have lunch in two places but alas we were once again interrupting the work of
the wait staff and choose to move on. A half block on we found and outdoor café and sat down parallel to the street. That
way we both could see and be seen. A waiter approached. He turned out to be pleasant and accommodating. We actually enjoyed
our lunch. We had that famous French Soup ”Gaspacho” being tired of soup made of bread, cheese, onions and broth.
We then had a crab sandwich and asked for that famous French condiment mayonnaise. It arrived in a small bottle like you would
have jam in for breakfast and turned out to be corporate mayonnaise from Heinz. Scared bleu the French standards have been
We dined for one and half hours and then started towards the church of Sacre Coeur via Avenue
Foch. En route as they say we came to one of many charming parks. This one was called the Parc Monceau. It had massive wrought
iron green and gold gates at both ends. It was more like and entrance to a palace
then a park. One could only imagine the impression these gates would make at the entrance to High Park.The park is all controlled with broad sand pathways and park benches. Many
of the grass areas fenced off so you couldn’t walk on them. Where are you Tommy Thompson when you are needed? For those
who don’t know who he was he was the Park Commissionaire in Toronto in the past and posted in Toronto Parks, “Please
walk on the grass”. Plenty of banks of flowers. The people attending were not like in Toronto where they are generally
immigrants wanting to get out from their crowded housing. No it Paris it is the Parisians who want to get out of their small
accommodations. The swings for children require payment to use but they do have a pleasant children’s Merry Go Round
that was crowded. Interestingly it was the grandparents who were in charge and the parents had been given the day off.
If you watch TV often you will see and hear a warning that this or that program has scenes
of nudity or strong language. The following is in the latter category. Read it at your own peril.
At this point nature called and
we sought a refuge. The “john in the park” turned out to be a small version of the Pantheon. A stone edifice worthy
of a visit simply for its architecture. However at its heart the bases of activities are enacted. I went right and Elizabeth
went left to our thrones. The “throne rooms” are little cubicles. As you can imagine graffiti covered the back
of the door. Two major themes were anti racist and anti gay. So much for life, liberty and fraternity.This John like many in Europe didn’t have a toilet seat. You are left
to do your “bomb run” targeting backwards over your shoulder. This performance I have had to endure while travelling
in Sicily so I had some experience. You would think I would be on target but alas there was collateral damage. Bomber Harris
would have court marshalled me for conduct unbecoming an officer.Being a good citizen I wanted to clean up but the city of Paris not being good hosts provided no tissue
paper or utensils to do so. A dilemma. What was I to do? I did what any other red blooded Italian would do I opened the door
and marched out pass a waiting line up of English bikers. I was a few steps pass the first man who had just entered and I
heard him as if in a Shakespearean play in a stentorian voice “Holy Shit”. I was delighted that he felt it was
of that quality.
I met Elizabeth outside and was honest with
her and told her about the more than the “Fart in the Park” that I performed. For some reason she found it funny.
So funny she couldn’t stop her gales of laughter. She retreated back to the ladies washroom for fear of needing to change
her, well you can guess. She came out still giggling and as she approached me it became gales of laughter again. Again she
retreated and again she returned. It was so uncontrolled and hilarious to both of us since her laugh is contagious I contemplated
slapping her face to calm her down. I didn’t act on that thought and we managed to exit the park. Those walking nearby
thought we were a couple of lunatics. However over the rest of the day the thought and mention of the drama in the park brought
out hysterical laughing again.
Later when I reflected on the incident the
French in Paris have well a real laid back attitude towards “marde”. In Anglo Saxon “shit”. In Toronto
if you walk your dog you dutifully have a plastic bag to recover your animal’s business. In Paris the trees have a circular
grate around them and that is where the doggies are trained to do their “do do”. Add to that that many owners
don’t care and one must be aware of cleaning up what is left behind with the bottom of your shoes. In the park they
have four ponies that they put kids on and then go down the paths that are shared by those in the park. Is there anyone to
clean up after the ponies? No. You guessed it you do it with the bottom of your shoes.
So our journey continued past the Japanese Embassy and the Saudis as well. Past a Spa with a glass
façade so you could see in to a pleasure palace extraordinaire. Into another neighbourhood of local average Parisians. Small
supermarkets, a Vacuum Cleaner store, jeweller, Bistro, Flower Shop, Stationer store and more. All were small and one wonders
how they made a living.By now we had covered about 3 miles and arrived not far from Sacre Coeur and the
Place Clichy. Six roads converged here. The tempo and the ambiance was that of Dundas Square. Elizabeth was waning somewhat.
She is not use to walking as I am. However I must confess I too was waning. I attribute this to the fact of a latent hang
over from our recent journey and a present hang over from having an alcoholic drink at lunch and dinner. I don’t normally
drink that much and was paying the price. We
sat down and had two diet cokes. Elizabeth finally said why didn’t I walk on and return in a half hour and then we would
take a cab home. So off I went in search of Cemeterie Montmartre. After about six blocks I came to a bridge overlooking this
historic graveyard and looked for an entrance. I walked about four blocks but alas no entrance. Turned down the side and four
blocks more and no entrance. Turned down another side four blocks and no entrance. Turned down the fourth side and four blocks
no entrance. Back where I had started. Boy was I pissed and tired. I retreated to join Elizabeth again exhausted at just walking.
We got a cab and had as much fun as a ride at Wonderland as the cabbie weaved in and out of traffic trying to qualify for
the Indie 500. Several times I almost yelled out at what I considered danger but he whisked through. This coming from a Sicilian
Grand Prix driver myself.
We arrived at our hotel and immediately
feel asleep. After three hours we awoke and went and had dinner a half a block away. We couldn’t walk any further.