AutoMatters & More: Paris – ‘The City of Light’ (special report pt. 2)

Welcome back! Last time we discussed flying to Paris on a colossal, state-of-the-art Air France Airbus A380, and then we took a look at the Paris ePrix electric car race on iconic city streets.

Next let’s travel by train to visit Disneyland Paris. As in Anaheim there are two parks here. The terrain is gently rolling hills, covered in lush greenery. Walt Disney Studios, complete with a facade of Cars Land, seemed noticeably more popular than Disneyland Paris – perhaps because many of the latter’s attractions were closed for refurbishing in the cold, wet weather.

We did not try “Indiana Jones et Le Temple Du Péril,” but we enthusiastically recommend the exciting Studio Tram Tour and the Ratatouille ride. Absolutely skip the Mexican restaurant (Fuente Del Oro) that looks like the one in California’s Disneyland. It serves the absolute worst Mexican food that we have ever eaten anywhere. The nasty accompaniments consisted of a single, rounded scoop of what appeared to be water-logged Minute Rice covered in a generic Mexican sauce, along with uniformly bright green guacamole served in a sealed, ketchup-sized, clear plastic tube. I pity the unwitting Europeans who think that is actually anything remotely similar to Mexican food.

Almost universally, the Parisians who I met were ever so kind and welcoming, including a staff photographer named Philippe from the prestigious Paris Match magazine (parismatch.com). As he and I were shooting the Paris ePrix with our Nikons, I had become so cold in the wintery weather that I was shaking and my fingers were getting numb. I needed to get indoors to warm up, so Philippe insisted that as a visitor to Paris, I would be his guest for lunch at a nearby French café. He refused to let me pay, suggesting instead that I could return the favor when he visits San Diego. I will also give him a great guided tour when he does. Philippe—are you reading this? I mean it!

My son and I dined in Parisian cafés most evenings after he finished work. Small tables extend out onto the sidewalks. The style of dining is reminiscent of that in the heart of bustling New York City. Patrons are seated close together, which encourages conversations with new neighbors from around the world. Wine is de rigueur.

Several days were spent exploring on my own, but I kept getting lost in the maze of Paris streets. Only once was I able to navigate directly back to my hotel. Thankfully Parisians were quite willing to help me, pointing me in the right direction each time.

Paris has a huge pickpocketing problem. Gangs of Eastern European youths prowl Paris wherever tourists congregate. Tourists are often easy marks, distracted by “bright and shiny things” as my son might say. While they are busy framing their photos and admiring the spectacular scenes and national treasures, pickpockets are likely to be stalking them, plotting to steal the treasures that they expect to find in their pockets. To prepare yourself for their devious scams designed to distract you, do a Google search on pickpockets in Paris. Also read this and watch the video at: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2367612/Invasion-pickpockets-Disturbing-pictures-Eastern-European-gangs-brazenly-targeting-victims-broad-daylight-Paris-streets-heading-UK.html.

Do NOT put anything of value in your pockets or anywhere else where it might be easily lifted. Instead, protect your valuables in a money belt hidden under your clothes. For convenience keep a bit of money in a zippered pocket for small purchases – but be prepared for that to be stolen.

Speaking of bright and shiny things, my son and I went to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night, with its bright flickering lights on the hour. Suddenly someone shouted from a distance. I had no idea what was going on, but my son knew. I had just been pickpocketed and a nearby Parisian had seen it. He was shouting to alert us.

Incredibly I had not felt it at all but, fortunately for me, my son and the Parisian confronted the scrawny young thief. Sheepishly he handed back what he had stolen from me, explaining that I’d dropped it. Sure I did.

Carry your backpack facing your chest to make it harder to steal, and avoid hanging valuables – especially on your side that faces the street, to guard against drive-by thieves.

Return next week to learn what you will need to know about the overly restrictive Air France carry-on rules and their penalties. Until then, send your comments and suggestions to AutoMatters@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2016 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters & More #436

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