Thursday, August 25, 2016

Am I Allowed to call Paris Gay these days?

Like a previous trip I have been extremely remiss in not staying current on these posts.  However I did use that wonder App called Track My Tour (please tell Chris that I sent you if you check it out) which did a much better job.  Here is the link to this part of the trip -- Click here.


It has been quite a few years since I was in Paris and it was nice to be back despite the recent spate of horrific terrorist attacks.  As a result of that security was tight but it appeared to be administered in a fairly haphazard manner.  I suppose it is really difficult to make sure a city of 10 million people are all kept safe from random, senseless attack but they sure tried and started with the big event of that time which was the French Open tennis tournament.

Sorry about the Facebook logo

This was Viv's 4th event on the Grand Slam circuit so something we'd been looking forward to.  Our plan was to watch the first 4 days.  The tickets though were a real pain to get.  Corporate and VIP buyers had first dibs, followed by members of the French Federation.  Then and only then did the public have a chance -- that was us.  Everything was pretty much gone so we asked the Bermuda LTA to see if they could help us out.  It took ages so I'd gone out and bought 2 days already by the time the French Federation came back but the result was 4 days straight: corporate hospitality day 1, ground pass day 2, stadium day 3, ground pass day 4.

We discovered the grund pass days were a waste of time as they sold thousands of ground pass tickets but the practical reality was that most of the 12 outside courts could hold fewer than 100 spectators.  That meant the queues to get into the outside events were endless -- we were told 1 hour for Court 2 and we were 10th in line.  So in fact we bagged the final ground pass day and went sight seeing instead.

Paris is a truly great city to sight see.

As regular players, Viv and I have constant fascination for how the game is played.  The TV most always shows the down the court view.  That view is certainly great for the TV watcher but gives absolutely zero feel for hard the players work and how hard they hit the ball.  All the time.  We'd watched Djokovic and Nadal in Rome in possibly the best match we've ever seen and to no surprise at all found out that everyone (and that includes even the slightest of the ladies) beats the ball really hard.  Every time.  We watched a terrific ladies doubles match on an outer court with 2 Japanese playing 2 French.  One of the Japanese a tiny left hander who served no harder than I do but boy did she follow that up with amazing ground strokes!

The first day in retrospect was probably the best tennis day and coincided with our best seats of the week -- this was our corporare day out.

Hideously expensive but great food and wine and wonderful seats at the side about 10 rows up from the court in the middle.  Gilles Simon is a player I really like and on the TV he looks languid and barely mobile, most times rolling the ball down the middle of the court in a pleasing manner to his opponent.  In real life he is really tall and skinny, moves incessantly and quickly from side to side, up and back and really, really beats the lights out of the ball.  Every time.  He won something like 55% of the points so won in straight sets very easily.  That's the wonder of the game!

Next was Richard Gasquet who has a backhand of dreams.  I struggle with mine... I blame my arthritis of course.  But his is wonderful and he hits it really hard, all the time.  And he doesn't miss that much.  Really these guys are very, very good indeed!

Struggling with his backhand
Organisationally however the tournament is a mess and the French Open has now surpassed the US Open as my least favourite major tournament.

Missing that last day though gave us the chance to both enjoy some better weather (it rained a lot) and see some wonderful sights.

I like cheesy, touristy things.  I also like public transport and the Paris Metro was terrific too.  But most of all that day I liked the Tuileries and the Musee de L'Armee, a tribute to French military but really mostly to Napoleon.

Nice arch, shame about the...
The French are great.  They dumped their hideous monarchy over 200 years ago and essentially forced the state to be separate from the church and progress.  Along the way of course there were hiccups but thankfully Napoleon sorted out most of the early ones.  People remember his generalship but don't fully acknowledge how he changed the world for the better and for the long term.  The Code Napoleon was an attempt to order everything and still stands in the guise of civil law around the world these days.  He was a phenomenon although rather dismissed by the British because (a) we fought against him for over 20 years and (b) he lost at Waterloo.  Indeed P.G. Wodehouse, that paragon of English writers had one of his more brainless characters say about Napoleon: "The only thing he ever did was to get hammered at Waterloo."

Love the lower lip.  Doubtless in one of his grumpier moments.
The British of course living up to their reputation of perfidy did fight endlessly against the French but rarely on land and before Waterloo, rarely against Napoleon.  They did however pay the Prussians, Austrians, Russians and anyone else who offered to fight.

Napoleon died on St Helena probably of stomach cancer according to the wonderful biography I just read (they think that because a number of his male relatives all died early of stomach complications) and was brought back to Paris in triumph in 1840 by Louis Phillippe (before he was deposed, nice try mate!) and re-interred at the Tuileries.

Nifty little, understated tomb of the great man.
Go there and glory in it.  Then go to the museum and relive many of the battles that marked French history.  This is done through very clever dioramas with commentary that take you through each battle step by step, before, during and after.  Very effective indeed.  I could have stayed their 4 days but Viv would likely have objected!

Next time I return, I promise to spend more time and see more sights.  But I did see a couple of the biggies!

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