Monday, August 04, 2008

On Sunday I went on a surprise outing. I didn't mean to go out; I meant to work, but in the morning I received this phone call:


"Hi - is that M?"

"No, M's not getting home until tonight."

"Is S there?"

"No, S is away too."

"Oh, well can you tell them I called?"

"Sure. And your name is?"

"I'm B. Actually, you've answered the phone before, haven't you? Are you in Paris visiting?"

"Sort of, yeah."

"I'm going around the 18th arrondissement today to look at architecture. Would you like to come with me?"


So an hour later I went up the road to Montmartre to met B, a French lad armed with a "Cultural Promenades of Paris" guide book.

"Why are you going about Paris with a guidebook? You live here in Paris, don't you?"

"No, I don't live in Paris. Can't stand the place."

"I see."

"I live just outside of Paris, in the suburbs."

We walked down the street and stopped in front of buildings that we contemplated while he read cultural factoids aloud from his book.

"And number 7 of this street we have the house of [insert name of famous painter - Picasso, Braque, or Renoir, etc] where he lived from [insert year] to [insert another year]. Note the mural on the top-left side of the wall depicting the sculptor [insert name of famous sculptor], painted in the year [insert year]."

"Hang on, I don't see any mural."

"Neither do I. I guess it must've been painted over after this guide was written."

Several minutes later...

"And now we come to street number 45, Montmartre's first town hall, constructed in 1790."

"It seems very small for a town hall."

"Yes, it does, doesn't it. Well, Montmartre was little more than a village at that time, you know."

Some time later...

"And it was on this very spot, outside number 72, that Monsieur Renault drove the first motorcar."

"It says on the sign that it's a doctor's surgery."

"Yes it does. How curious. You'd expect that at least they'd have made mention of Renault somewhere on the sign. It was the first motorcar, after all."

"Yes, one would have thought they would have."

"You know what? I'm getting a bit suspicious about the accuracy of this guide book. It seems to be giving us rather strange historical information about these buildings. Well anyway, on we go."

Still later...

"Oh no."

"What's wrong?"

"We're on the wrong street."

"Huh? You mean we were looking at the wrong buildings the whole time??"

"Er, yes. These street numbers are actually for another street entirely. This is terribly embarrassing. I'm extremely sorry. You must think I'm awfully stupid."

"No, I don't think you're stupid. I just think it's a very good thing you are not, strictly speaking, a Parisian. Because if you were you would be a disgraceful one."

Following this moment of ice-breaking embarrassment we did our tour all over again on the right street, but our new "correct" tour was disappointingly predictable compared to our mistaken tour. The town hall looked just like how one would've expected a town hall to look, the mural of the sculptor was merely a picture of a man as described, and the sign on the wall saying "this is where Renault parked his first car" was no more than a sign on the wall.

We ended our outing by sitting on the steps of the Sacre Coeur arguing about the principles vs practicalities of using open-source software.

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At 9:05 pm, Blogger Ben.H said...

"A nice 3-hour long chat about the weather", "arguing about the principles vs practicalities of using open-source software" - you have all the best euphemisms for what you get up to with guys.


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