West Virginia University in Vendée, France
In the eye of the storm...
June 2, 1999
France is a country in which every citizen takes an active role in social questions that may have and effect on his or her life. Today is an example. Last night a worker in the Metro, or the Paris subways, was hospitalized in critical condition after an incident involving two street vendors who had illegally tried to ply their trade in the tunnels of the Metro. Questions of security had been on many Metro workers' minds lately, and this was the last straw. We innocent WVU-Vendéens (and millions of innocent Parisians, as well) awoke this morning to a general strike of the entire Parisian transport system. We had been ready for the museum strike, but this took us all completely by surprise. Below, Madame Benoist, who is one of the best guides in Paris, leads us through the bus terminal at the Gare du Nord. We hope to catch a bus to our destination downtown, but as we arrive we learn that the bus drivers have voted a sympathy strike with their brothers in the Metro. We have no choice but to head for Notre Dame Cathedral on foot. Dr. V. Lastinger leaves the group with Nicole Angelicchio in the hopes of finding a taxi and joining us at our destination. Our walk from the Gare du Nord to Notre Dame takes us through some very interesting parts of the city. Stopping along the way for Madame Benoist's insights on some of the significant places we pass by, our walk takes about an hour.
En route to Notre Dame, Madame Benoist explains Les Halles, the former "stomach of Paris" where all the food coming into the city was distributed. For reasons of space and hygiene, the main market was moved outside the city earlier this century. In its place are gardens, appartments, and an immense underground shopping center. Below we look across le Forum des Halles, with the Eglise Saint-Eustache in the background.
Our group arrives at Notre Dame, and while awaiting V. Lastinger and Nicole we visite the monument to the 200,000 French citizens deported during World War II. Finally, we are all united on the plaza in front of the great church. Nicole and V. Lastinger, having been unable to find a taxi, they too have come on foot.
After visiting the cathedral, we cross the bridge toward La Samaritaine, Paris's first great department store. Atop the store is one of the finest views of Paris, and we take advantage of the rooftop restaurant to have lunch.
After lunch, we cross though the palace of Le Louvre, where Madame Benoist explains the building's origins as a medival castle and its many renovations by different kings through the centuries. The pyramid below, is of course the latest addition, and sits over a vast undergound series of galleries with shops, entries to the museum, parking lots, etc.
We are able to visit some of the public areas under the pyramid, but the museum itself is closed due to the strike. Madame Benoist has gotten us tickets to a bateau-mouche tour of the city, however. This is a very good way to see many of Paris's most impressive monuments.
Below is another view of Notre Dame, this time from our boat on the Seine river.
After the bateau-mouche, we leave the dock and come across the monument to Princess Diana, who died here in her terrible automobile accident.
At the end of the day, V. Lastinger, Nicole, and Madame Benoist try once more to find a taxi -- and again this proves impossible. In the end it is Monsieur Benoist who drives them back to the hotel, weaving through some of the heaviest traffic Paris ever sees. The others of us have taken to the streets on foot find our way back to our lodgings near the Gare du Nord.
Stay tuned to WVU-V!
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