Thursday, October 18, 2007

Kickin' down the cobblestones

I ventured out to meet a friend for lunch and decided to check out the streets of Paris during the transportation strike. On foot, of course.

I'd never seen such a brilliant blue sky in this city, the perfect backdrop for the golden dome of the Invalides.

Perhaps because the streets, at midday, had very few vehicles. Fewer fumes! Shops were open for the most part, but there weren't many crowds anywhere.

I wandered over to the Café de l'Esplanade, the chic see-and-be-seen spot next to the Invalides. Usually bustling at this hour of the day; but today outdoor tables were going begging. A few chauffeur-driven cars with vitres fumées (tinted windows) pulled up, their passengers exited to the cafe's interior.

Down the boulevard de la Tour Maubourg, a line of six taxis sat idling. In front of the 7th arrondissment's fanciest restaurants, the voituriers (valet parking attendants) were twiddling their thumbs. It looks as though Parisians took the warnings to heart and made other plans today.

Lunching on the terrasse of La Terrasse, we spotted two buses go by -- Number 82 -- in the space of 35 minutes. Each one had about nine passengers. I guess no one expected to be able to ride the bus, so there was little demand. I rarely see them so empty.

This isn't what I expected a massive transportation strike to look like. I don't know exactly what I expected, but on last night's 8 o'clock news I had seen images of throngs of stranded passengers waiting at train stations, and so today I imagined snarled traffic clogging every thoroughfare. I think most others did too.

In my neck of the woods today, Paris was a delight.

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