Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Paris: Not in the Guidebooks

Sidewalk musicians (with a piano!?!):

The Hunchback of Notre Dame:
Since we stayed right near the Notre Dame Cathedral, we walked by it several times.  Each time, this man with a creepy mask was walking around entertaining the crowd and making everyone laugh by scaring people.  He came up behind me, for example, and held onto my hand while we were walking.

Cooper was fascinated by him.  So we tried telling him the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, and explained that this man was hanging around the cathedral sort of acting like the Hunchback.  Except neither Alan or I could really remember how the story went.  "Well... a man was hunched over and ugly and people were mean to him, so he went to live in the cathedral's bell tower and rang the bells at the right times..."
We spent a lot of time talking about both this man and the Hunchback, and trying to remind Cooper of the difference between what's real (the man) and what's pretend (that the man is the Hunchback; the Hunchback himself, for that matter).  I'm not sure we succeeded...
But Cooper was very excited to have a photo of the man.

Alan wanted this photo:
A homeless person asking for money, but with a dog.  As if to say, "I love animals, too.  I would never use your money to buy booze; I've got to take care of my faithful pup."

We saw these green wooden boxes along the riverbank.

Turns out, they're little store fronts.  They serve as storage containers for various books and prints and whatnot, and they open up into these stands for display the items for sale.  Clever.

When our tour bus was parked at the Eiffel Tower picking up new passengers, we saw this street performer (trickster?) putting on a show.  He was playing the shell game -- one of those round brown discs was white on the bottom side.  He would show the people which one, mix them up a bit, and let folks guess where the white one was.  No, not guess.  Bet.  And not a cheap bet either.  50 Euros (so about $65, I think) at a time.  And he paid out, too.  We saw him give away quite a bit of money.
BUT.  From our vantage point, we could see how he makes his money. The people in his audience watched him move the discs around.  It really was pretty easy to follow, so the audience was confident that they knew where the white one was.  They reached into their purse or back pocket for money.  And when they turned away ever-so-briefly, the man moved the discs.  The most common and effective move was just to spin the piece of cardboard around.  It was actually pretty shocking how many people he tricked (repeatedly!) doing that.  I was sorely tempted to hop off the bus and play, but I didn't have the 50 Euro ante.  Probably a good thing...

This little pod is a public toilet.

But it's a fancy toilet.  It cleans itself:
"The toilet bowl is washed, disinfected and dried automatically with each use.  The floor is also washed after each use." 

So someone would come out, the door would shut, you could hear some water noises, and about 45 seconds later, the door opens for the next person.  With a freshly washed floor and toilet bowl.

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