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Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

“Music does bring people together. It allows us to experience the same emotions. People everywhere are the same in heart and spirit. No matter what language we speak, what color we are, the form of our politics or the expression of our love and our faith, music proves: We are the same.” 

― John Denver

A common experience that I had in the various countries I visited was the presence of music. It came in different languages, genres and deliveries, but every time it served as a unifying force.

Dodi dancers

I wrote about the boat ride that I took in a previous post and briefly mentioned the singers who welcomed us when we reached the halfway point. Inhabitants of the small island, they sang and danced in an effort to collect donations. I wondered if they would do so otherwise, but they truly seemed to be enjoying themselves.

And it was contagious, as several boat riders danced alongside them.

Sing-alongs at Sacre Couer

An Italian man named Youri performed on the steps of the Sacre Couer on my sister’s first night in Paris. We had ventured over to see the Basilica and, after hearing him sing Rupert Wainwright’s “Hallelujah” on key, decided to join the crowd. We did not, however, give in to the men peddling Heinekens for 5 euros a piece, despite their persistence.

Here’s Youri singing “Hallelujah” while another man provides an entirely different form of entertainment (and I’m not talking about the man who appears to be performing magic tricks next to the singer):

The Basilica is situated atop a hill in Montmarte and is the only hill where you can properly view the city of Paris. So, as the sun set, we had a beautiful view to accompany the music. At one point Youri paused and told the crowd that we were all very lucky to be visiting Paris and asked our origins. Brazil, Spain, Italy, U.S., Canada: many different nationalities were all sitting together singing.

Given the chaos taking place all over the world, whether it has to do with finances, regimes or famine, I found solace in the moment. Hopefully you can capture some of it with these two videos of the crowd singing “Imagine” and “Let it be” together. Don’t mind my sister and me singing along/laughing!

Familiar tunes in Deutschland

The first family member I visited in Germany was my cousin, the director of several choirs in his hometown. I went with him to two of the choir practices and was surprised to find them singing American songs. ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ was followed by ‘Uptown Girl’ and then ‘Since U Been Gone’.

I sat watching and singing quietly, tapping my foot along to the familiar tunes. The German accents added to the moment and the happiness that the individuals felt in singing was contagious.

“…there is music in the air, music all around us, the world is full of it and you simply take as much as you require.”

—  Sir Edward William Elgar

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Translation: thanks, but no thanks. There have been too many experiences to count that apply to this statement.

SALES TACTICS

The only shoes I brought with me to Paris were a pair of sandals and a pair of hiking shoes. Considering the colder weather and sense of fashion here, I was keeping an eye out for an alternative. Easier said than done given the high prices of Paris. When I saw some shoes for 29 Euro, I tried them out but also figured they weren’t very well made.

Along with the very chemical odor coming from them, there were no half sizes available and I either would be squishing my toes or tripping over myself. I considered the latter, but the owner only had the shoe in black and the grey ones were what brought me into the store.

That didn’t stop her from practically shoving me out of the door with them.

‘Oh, black is better! You can wear with jeans or dress! Grey does not look good when it rains,’ she encouraged.

I considered, but the quality just wasn’t worth it. How do you say that to someone who is lingering over your shoulder telling your sister that she can shove something in the toe of the shoe to make it fit her tiny feet and repetitively asking ‘why not?’ when she decides against that option?

You don’t. We told her we were going to continue to look around and then literally ran out of the store, looking like shoplifters. I kept looking over my shoulder, half expecting her to chase us down and insist we buy them. After a few minutes we slowed our pace and laughed at our escape.

UNWANTED ADVANCES

The only men who really approached me and my sister in Paris were those trying to sell us little Eiffel Tower figurines. That changed when we got to Rome. While walking to find breakfast we were woken up by a man who got right in our faces, whistled and then made kissing noises.  Talk about invasion of personal space.

Later we were trying to figure out where to eat dinner, wandering around the streets. Often times a restaurant employee will stand on the sidewalk outside the establishment trying to attract customers. One man decided gasping and proclaiming, ‘I love you!’ would lure us in to eat. Wrong. We ate at a very tasty place down the street where the waiter had a better understanding of manners.

Besides the affectionate advances, there were also the sales people (if you care to call them that). Flinging flashy toys into the air, waving fake purses in your face and selling beer at ridiculous rates.

I’ve got to hand it to them, though, they’re magicians of sorts. When the temperature dropped in Rome, they sold scarves to drape around your shoulders.

Then, when the rain started falling a little later, suddenly the scarves became umbrellas. I had barely felt a drop before they were waving them in our faces.

Thankfully I learned from Ghana that a blank stare straight ahead or curt shake of the head is typically all it takes to send them running toward another unlucky tourist.

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The past three days here in Paris have largely consisted of new sights, as is expected. Along with some tasty croissants, crepes and cheese; although not too much because the exchange rate is not currently in our favor!

In order to see many of these grand sights, you have to look up. So I’m in need of a neck massage and/or some ibuprofen. Sight seeing really takes a lot out of your feet and back, too. Totally worth it, though. Plus I was planning on being exhausted when I return, so I went ahead and purchased a Groupon deal for a massage.

There’s a good deal of weaving in between the hawkers and others seeking money from tourists. Future travelers to Paris, beware the men trying to put a friendship bracelet on your wrist, the opportunity to gamble on a game of ‘which cup is hiding the pea’ and the countless people claiming to be deaf who want your contact info. If you’re not scammed by one of them, you might have your pocket picked by an accomplice. As long as you are aware of your surroundings and avoid engaging them in conversation, you should be fine.

Have I mentioned the weather has been gorgeous? We have yet to tour any museums just because of the blue skies and sunlight bringing warmth to these fall days. My favorite type of day.

View of the city from Sacre Couer.

Pigeons, pigeons everywhere.

An artists' palette of colors.

Clever.

Sacre Couer, peaking out over Montmarte.

Fall colored flowers outside the Louvre.

A lovely perch.

Mid-autumn in Paris.

The door of Notre Dame.

Celebrating its 850th anniversary this year.

That famous monument.

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“An intense anticipation itself transforms possibility into reality; our desires being often but precursors of the things which we are capable of performing.”
-Samuel Smiles, author

Another two sleepless flights later, I am in Paris! Feeling pretty proud of myself, too, because I managed to store my large suitcase, buy a metro ticket and arrive safely at my hostel all while speaking my broken French.

I arrived before check-in and took some time to stroll around the neighborhood and I am in love; with the architecture, the roads, the trees, the pigeons.

Pigeons are to Paris–and I hear Venice, too–as chickens are to Ghana. In other words, expect more pictures of pigeons. I especially enjoyed watching one cross the road via a cross walk earlier. Unfortunately I was too busy staring at it to take a picture.

I’m also very happy because I get to experience autumn. I was worried I would arrive back to the US after the leaves had all fallen.

This poor guy lost part of his foot.

Montamarte

Colorful grafiti.

“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” 

― Pablo Picasso 

His words apply to my day in multiple ways. The most obvious being that the hostel I am staying in is located in Montamarte, a portion of Paris where Picasso once resided and worked.

In a more abstract way it applies to my visit to the Montamarte Cemetary, which first appears to be a small village. The tombs and headstones range in age; some decaying, others recent.

The elaborate detail and artwork on each one was eerily beautiful. I debated about taking pictures and decided that the families created such beautiful tributes for people to admire their loved ones.

I found the plants growing amidst the headstones to be symbolic of life amidst death.

Montamarte Cemetary.

More pictures to come!

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