Crazy Bicyclist, Break Dancing and Eiffel Tower

On the street outside my window is what I have come to think of as the drinking bench.  Everyday there is a group of men who sit and visit and drink wine.  Although drinking on the street and in parks is not allowed everyone seems to do it. Yesterday in front of Sacre Coeur there were even people selling bottles of beer to the tourists!

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I went to a life drawing session at an artist’s atelier near the Eiffel Tower todayAnd the male model was excellent.  He held some very difficult poses.  I have been playing with watercolour gestures, not always successfully, but I think it has promise so I will persevere.  It is always difficult to try new things, it feels awkward and clumsy at first.  Even if it isn’t something I decide to continue doing, it still adds to my knowledge and understanding.  It is very easy to keep doing what I know works, instead of stepping into new territory, but I know I need to push myself in order to keep learning and improving.

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imageThese are five minute poses, not many models would even attempt the one above.

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Here is a photo of the studio. Nothing too fancy, but Claire provided tea which was much appreciated. She was instructing a class, and I was allowed to come and do my own thing. The students were quite interested in what I was doing and gave me some nice compliments.imageI decided to walk over to the Eiffel Tower, about a six block walk, and soon I could see it towering above the near by buildings.

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It is difficult to comprehend just how big this structure is.  Soon I am right underneath, looking up.

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It is a special weekend, les Journées du Patrimoine, with lots of buildings open to the public and events taking place all over the city.  It is very busy here today, the line ups for the elevators stretch right across the plaza beneath the Eiffel Tower.  There is an electronic sign flashing that says that the platforms are at maximum capacity and there is up to a 45 minute wait, and that is after waiting in that big line to get tickets!   Good thing I had no intention of going up today.

imageWhen we were here several years ago we were surprised to see military guards, somehow not so surprising today.  I have actually seen armed guards in several places, including the Gare de l’Est.

imageInterestingly, neither the police nor the military seem to do much to deter street vendors, who can be quite insistent, I discovered that a quick shake of the head and not making eye contact seems to do the trick.  This bunch is waiting for the elevator to come down from the Eiffel Tower, they then follow the people who get off, trying to convince them to buy an Eiffel tower of their very own.

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I watched this guy operate for a few minutes, and saw a man lose a hundred Euro bill!  He was so sure he knew where the little ball was, and was quite shocked that he didn’t double his money, like the woman before him, who managed to pick the right cup several times.  I am pretty sure she was working with the fellow manning the cups.  I am surprised that people still fall for this.

imageI head across the river towards the Metro, and stop to watch some pretty amazing break dancers.

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One of them invites a pretty young girl up on to the stage and is quite surprised when she pretty much matches him move for move!  Turns out she is with the Astana Ballet, which is a ballet company from Kasakhstan.  What a treat that was.  I ended up sitting there for more than an hour, it was all so entertaining.  One of the break dancers spoke to the audience in at least a dozen languages, including Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, German, Russian and more that I can’t remember.  He seemed to know at least several sentences in each language and even answered in the different languages when the audience members responded!

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I also saw the craziest bicyclist ever.  He came flying, down a pedestrian street standing up on his bike, which was scary enough, but he then continued onto the main road which was part of an intersection of six roads !

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And he did this repeatedly!  I stood in utter amazement and watched him perform this insane stunt at least a half dozen times.  No idea what he is thinking.  I am thinking he is lucky to still be alive!

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Time to get home.  One last look back at the Eiffel tower in the setting sun and I head off to the Trocadéro Metro stop .

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The metro trains were very busy tonight, but a young lady and later a man get up to give me their seat. I guess having grey hair has some perks!  It was almost 9:00 by the time I got home, the latest yet.  I am getting braver.

Taking Care of Business

I had a productive day, but not without it’s difficulties.  After lunch I headed to the Gare de l’Est and managed to get my Navigo pass, but not at the office I was directed to yesterday. They sent me someplace else, but I was successful, and it was only the fifth place that I tried!

Pass in hand I boarded the Metro and headed towards Notre Dame area where the office to get my phone SIM card was located.  I was pleasantly surprised at how easily I found my way on the metro, and soon I was standing in front of the correct address, but the office was closed.  I did have a backup plan in place (I am starting to figure out how things operate here) so back on the Metro and I headed to the next address I had for a SIM card dealer.  I found that one without too much difficulty, but they no longer sold the cards, so I set out for the third address, a place called Fat Tires Bike Tours.  It seemed a strange place to buy a SIM card, and I was starting to feel a little bit desperate.  My apartment is in the north east corner of Paris, and I was now in the south west part of the city.Geraniums in Flower box

One of the many windows with geraniums on my walk.

I was having a bit of trouble finding this place in spite of fairly good directions from the lady at the second store.  I decided to try to buy a map as backup, just in case I got really lost.  A car rental place sold me a Michelin map called Paris par Arrondissement but the street I needed was not in the index.  The man selling the maps tried to help, and then another fellow looked up the address on his cell phone, so I at least had an idea of it’s vicinity.

After a long walk and retracing my steps a couple of times I actually found the place, and yes, they sell SIM cards and yes! they speak English!  That was a relief, as I was running out of options.

Turns out the process is not an easy one. It took two very nice young clerks more than an hour to get me set up and they needed to use the chat line with someone at the online site. They were so kind, I don’t think I would have managed this on my own, especially with a brand new phone that I really don’t know much about.  I gave them a generous tip for all their help, it was well worth it.

Carvings on Paris Building

This building had beautiful tree carvings under the balcony, and then I looked up!  This is one of the many things I love about Paris.  Every street and every corner turned offers surprises.Carvings on Paris BuildingAll this took over six hours!  I was exhausted and finally stopped for a pot of tea and something to eat, only to discover that the kitchen was closed until 7:00, so I had a Lara bar with my tea and then headed home.  I was too tired to try to get my pass for the Louvre, that will have to wait.

The street I turned onto after my tea break offered this view.

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I stopped at three more stores looking for distilled water for my CPAP machine, but no luck.  It takes a while to find out where to buy things in a city in another country,  using another language.  I must say that the Parisians that I have dealt with have been very kind, friendly and helpful.  I am not sure if it is because I am speaking as much French as I can but I have yet to   meet one rude or unkind person.

I have been a bit too busy and too tired to do any drawing in spite of carrying my sketch book with me, but today I chanced upon an art studio and they offer life drawing once a month on Sunday.  The artist I spoke to said there are not many studios open to tourists, that the schools require you to be a resident to attend their life drawing session, so I was fortunate to find this one.