May 8


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I don't know how we got to Paris, as I was knocked out as usual, but we did, and it was good, and wet: it's reassuring how reliable weather forecasts are today. The subway took us right to the hotel where they had a room ready for us, despite the early morning hour. We unloaded our gear, bundled up, and left for the wilderness. Being strategic as usual, Essan would use this rainy day to roam the museums, while I would try my luck with some street photography, wandering around. Equipped with a museum pass and a 1D Mark II respectively, we were both well prepared for the task. First we stopped into a small cafe where we ordered a sandwich of sorts, which for me marked the best food in Paris - more on that later. From here, Essan disappeared into the Musée d'Orsay while I crossed the Seine into one of the many parks which remain nameless to me. The parks and streets were predominantly empty, and the rain was making me wonder what the hell I am doing out here as well. Following my PHS (pigeon homing system) I was zigzagging around, and hours later somehow ended up at the Eiffel Tower. Heck, why not. In the park below the tower a number of people had gathered for a Boccia tournament, with loudspeakers and all. The rain didn't seem to disturb the gentlemen at all, nor did they seem to be taking it all too seriously. However, they did seem to pose a bit for the camera, and were rather saddened to hear that I was taking the pictures just for my own pleasure. I guess the rattling gun made an impression on them.

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By four in the afternoon I was sufficiently soaked and cold that I felt that since the rain won't give in I should, and that it would be a good idea to go back to the hotel and change into something drier. It's reassuring to know that reportedly there is a Metro station not more than 500m from any place in Paris. The trick is to know where to go, and I thought that you can't go wrong with following a main street. About 3km later I indeed ran into a station, by chance of course, and who knows whether I missed one on the way: whether you wander around London, New York, or Prague, you will clearly see a subway station if there is one - missing one would be like missing a nail in your shoe. In Paris it seems to be a sport to conceal stations as much as possible, probably to hide them from invading armies and tourists. It starts with inconspicuous signs and continues with the fact that most stations seem to have only one entrance, even though they are at a major square. Finally, once inside a subway station, the designers made it safe at least from American passengers. All the automatic ticket gates are so narrow that only a slim person can get through without suffering any pain or getting stuck altogether.

At the hotel I changed clothes, memory card and batteries, and headed back into the rain. I was to meet Essan at six by the Louvre pyramid, and since I was early as always I passed the time by shooting people waiting and hanging out around the pyramid. Come six o'clock come Essan, out of an unexpected direction but still, filled up on art. I got to hear everything about the Mona Lisa and the strange Louvre policy of allowing flash photography. Both cold and wet we went hunting for some food, but first we made a stop at a chocolate store where we spent just about as much money as we lost minutes later in a currency exchange transaction. But that's part of doing business / travel, so what the heck.

For dinner we went to a random cafe (they all look the same) and ordered something we could understand and what sounded good. While Essan was reasonably happy I concluded that the local chef did not pay attention in meat class, or maybe thought that any French food (they just call it food here) would be an improvement to the Americans. Well, not so fast, you are dealing with a Swiss boy here. Having a very functional jaw I coped with the beef, but my grandpa would have had more troubles than in a cheap Czech restaurant.

After dinner we headed to the hotel to switch to night mode. This should have meant simply going to bed, since we had slept maybe four hours in the past day and a half, but hey, this is Paris, so that was out of the question. We grabbed the tripod, night lens and other goodies while leaving some stuff behind, and headed out to the Champs Elysées, namely to the Arche de Triomphe, as that's what Essan wanted to see. We got out of the metro station and ran into a bunch of soccer - er, football fans, probably going to a game, as they were clearly not euphoric nor violent enough to be coming from one. We made it to the Arche, even though it took some looking for: the city of lights was disappointing, as most lights stayed off. The Arche was dim at best, so we gave it a quick peek and decided to postpone the visit for another time. Being the geek that I am, while staying in general Arche mood I dragged Essan to La Défense to see the new, big version - La Grande Arche. This 110m tall office building is one of the most odd looking things around, and you can see all the way down to the original version towards the Champs Elysées - assuming it's clear and / or the little one is illuminated. Very much to Essan's by now commonplace "oh dear" mood I spent some quality time shooting the Arche, using the precious rain-free minutes (or should I say seconds?) we were experiencing. The problem with rain is that - apart from being moderately annoying after being in it for a whole day - it's inherently incompatible with wide angle photography, as even a single drop is quite visible in the pictures. You can shield a telephoto lens quite well, but in ultrawide moments like this one, all bets are off. So I was cleaning the lens between each shot with a towel which I borrowed from the hotel, hoping for at least one clean exposure.

After about five dry minutes at the Défense the clouds made it once again quite clear who's the master here and who's just a guest, so we cowardly gave in and went back home. After all, it was almost midnight and we were barely standing, forget about walking.

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