Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dave Made it to Djibouti

I finally got an email from Dave this afternoon and he made it to Djibouti fine. Evidently it was an interesting and long trip. The flights to Atlanta and then to France went off without a hitch and the Air France flight was nice, with two full meals and drinks. Each seat had it's own little LCD screen and there was a game controller to select different free entertainment options, games to play, TV shows, GPS flight display, and of course movies - lots of them.

He had a long lay over in Paris and took a train from the airport to the city. First, he went to the Notre Dame Cathedral which he said the architecture, designs, stained glass, all were amazing. From there he got a coffee and a chocolate crepe at a cafe across the river and then walked down the Seine River to the Louvre Museum. As a note, if in Paris never walk on the sides of the sidewalks, especially on the water walk. The Parisians walk there little dogs there and they poop everywhere.

On the way to the Louvre, he took in all of the sights of the city and said it is so beautiful. This is how he described The Louvre - "The Louvre, though, is simply awe inspiring. I don't have the words to properly describe the awe, majesty, and grandeur of it all. I wouldn't even know where to start. You enter through that glass pyramid and down into an enormous atrium that leads to the different sections of the museum. There was the bottom of a huge castle, Egyptian relics, Greek Vases and relics, ancient Roman statues, beautiful sculptures and paintings (there were paintings the size of the side of our house). But you didn't even need all of that. Each hallway and room had floor and ceiling murals painted on them. In one hallway, it was enamoured with these murals as well as elaborate golden trim. I could have spent weeks in that museum. I also of course got to see the Mona Lisa (not to impressed), Venus de Milo, and a bunch of Picasso paintings that were on show (I got in trouble for taking a picture of one of them). I can only imagine how many hundreds on millions, if not billions, of dollars were on display at this museum."

Then something interesting and a little crazy happened. As Dave was walking through the museum, he got hailed from behind from an older woman who asked if he was in the military. He answered yes and she mentioned she knew General James Jones, the former Commandant, former NATO Commander, and future NSA to President Obama. She mentioned how she thought very highly of him and the military. As he was trying to politely disengage, she insisted that he have coffee with her at one of the museum cafes and discuss a proposal she was going to present to NATO. Dave wanted to talk more with the locals to get a feel for their culture and lives and he thought she was a nice old lady, so how could it hurt. She guided him to a small shop where they had a glass of wine and she took out an envelope with a printed stationary letter in it and gave it to him to read. It had the synopsis of her proposal as well as her biography. It was then that his assessment of her changed for the first of three times. She was a loon. Her proposal involved using nuclear power for space exploration and some type of pseudo-UN "congress" to be formed to promote world peace. Her biography stated that she was a Polish Duchess and that she attended many fine schools in Europe. She started asking who the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was, and if Dave knew his e-mail address. She wanted to send him a copy of her proposal. She went on about her proposal, and then began discussing how frustrated she was because none of the leaders were listening to her. She began dropping names such as the French President Sarkozy and others about how she discussed this matter with them. According to Dave, she was completely delusional. "Of all of the people to sit down and try and absorb their culture, I had to sit down with an old, delusional batty woman." Dave actually began to feel sorry for her when she abruptly said she had to leave to go to a meeting with the Representative of Palestine (crazy as a cookoo bird) and by the way could she have 100 euros? Now Dave decided she was a crazy, strapped for cash old lady who deep down was just a con-artist. He went on to say, "Well, I tried unconvincingly to say no, but after some badgering I weakly capitulated to giving her 50 euros. My plan was to try and get cash back from the waiter, knowing that he wouldn't do that and then politely take my leave with the impression that I tried to help. Well, after the waiter said he couldn't comply, she spoke French to him and he said that perhaps the vendor downstairs could give cash back. We paid (or I should say I paid, she invited me for the drink so I could pay) and went downstairs. The vendor said he couldn't give cash back, and again I thought I was clear, until she spoke more French to him. There was some finger pointing, and she came back to me saying there was an ATM in the atrium. Well I had to badly go to the bathroom, so I dropped back a little and tried to slip off to the toilet, where she followed me. She was like a loony hyena stalking its prey. Well I took long time in the bathroom hoping she would get the hint, and become frustrated and leave, but I came out and she was there guarding the only exit. From this point on it was like an out-of-body experience - completely surreal. Her loony talk must have infected me in some way, or perhaps her swindling, yet kind-hearted, crazy, old lady approach worked, but I ended up leaving with her defeated, to the ATM. I dutifully got her 50 euros, she shook my hand, and promptly departed. I was left feeling - well confused. There wasn't as much anger in me, since I let it happen. In my mind I thought I was simply helping an old quack (but in France they all seem to be quacky), so there was a tinge of gratification. All in all it was weird and an education. But it is a story that is my unique (I hope) French experience that will stay with me for a long time, or until I become old and loony like her."

I can't wait to actually talk to him to find out more about this but it's one of those things where you just have to shake your head and laugh.

As soon as I get Dave's pictures, I will add them to the blog.

1 comment:

Andrea Kring said...

That is absolutely perfect! I can only imagine the wackos that sit back and hunt for unsuspecting lone tourists there. Poor Dave... ALWAYS travel in a group. But even with the crazies, the Louvre is TOTALLY worth it.

Paris is this ODD mixture of awe and paranoia. On the Metro there, we had a guy pull out a drug of some sort and take a hit in front of us just for shock value. When the subway stopped, he then sprinted on ahead of us and as we were coming up the tunnel to the exit, he was standing there relieving himself on the wall smiling at us. Mmmm, gotta love the Paris experience. :)