I haven’t been to Paris in years, yet one thing you can still count on: they don’t know how to make bad food.  I step into a smoke filled bar (yes, the French love their Galouise, unfortunately) and sit down at the counter, ordering up a white wine and a salad, having been on meat overdose in Austria, where their idea of a vegetable is a potato with garnish. 


The salad is good and fresh, and comes with smoked salmon and baby shrimp.  The house Chardonnay is far superior to anything I tasted in Vienna.  Keep in mind, this is ordered from the corner saloon.  If I had actually spent some time looking for good food, who knows what I might find in a city like Paris?  LOL


I arrived at night from the abominable outer terminal at the Charles de Gaulle airport after flying a little over an hour from Vienna on Niki Air.  I was wedged into a middle seat designed for the median sized person.  I am not median, or even close, so I was uncomfortable sandwiched in between 2 businessmen, and felt a little bit like I did when I was 6 and Dad had us drive across the country in the back seat of a car, and I had to sit on the hump between my two brothers, jockeying for elbow room.  But the flight left on time, and they even offered a snack.


But bad marks for Vienna Airport security.  Remember when I told you European security was way easier and better than American security?  I lied.  Or at least exaggerated.  The clerk at the ticket counter takes a look at my walking sticks, the ones that got me all the way through northern Spain, the same ones that Vueling shipped for free, and tells me it’d cost me 50 Euro to ship them…or I could just carry them on the plane.


Sounds like a no-brainer, right?  Wrong, Naïve Boy!  At the scanner, they take one look at my sticks and, after a short consultation involving 2 supervisors and a lot of whispered “Neins” accompanied by much shaking of the collective bobble heads of the security staff, they tell me they can’t allow them on the plane, but I could go back to the clerk and have them shipped.  For 50 Euro.


I tell them that’s an enticing offer, since it would only take another 30 minutes out of my day to do it and I really enjoy the company of all the airport personnel, but, even though I went to a public high school in Alabama, which is rumored to be the model for Pink Floyd’s “The Wall”, I am still able to figure out that the $40 I paid for my Coleman sticks at Target is less than they want to ship them one time for me, and besides, I’m pretty sure that for $70 I could have just had them Fed-Exed back home, instead of carrying them all over Europe, thank you very much.  So I decline and tell her she can keep the sticks, if not shove them into a nice dark crevice from whence a subsequent trip to the proctologist would require some painful but yet, somehow, humiliating surgery.  But she tells me cheerfully that no, she can’t keep them, they must be destroyed, as if they are rabid dogs, capable of further mayhem if they are not executed immediately.  I guess that is supposed to make me feel better.


Now, I am trying to understand the threat level my walking sticks represented, since they weigh about a total of one pound collectively, and if I used them to strike someone, even assuming I had a nice wide batting cage-like area to warm up in within the tiny confines of the tourist section, as soon as they struck anything harder than air they’d bend over faster than Barney Frank at a gay orgy, and harmlessly wrap around the neck of the flight attendant like some kind of Bronze Age necklace.  Or, perhaps, I could somehow sharpen the ends of the sticks and use them like swords, but I’m pretty sure that one of the two guys wedged in next to me would object to me using a power grinder when he isn’t allowed to turn on his I Pad.


In any event, I bid adieu to my sticks and am picked up at the airport by Laeticia, a pretty brunette, and driven to my apartment.  I have this thing for French accents, and so on the way I try to ask her open questions like “what is the meaning of life?” just to hear her talk, but she is too busy concentrating on getting me safely into the city through rush hour traffic to say much, except for something in French which loosely translates into “Shut up, you old fool!”, only with slightly more invective and with some questioning of my parental lineage involved.


But she keeps a smile on, and shows me into my apartment, which I must say is a disappointment.  Trip Advisor rated the place highly, and usually they’re right, but I thought for $150 per night, for a longer term stay, even in the 15th Arrondisement, there should be a light in the stairway, or even better yet, an elevator.  But no!  Laeticia lights the way with her phone, and, after fumbling with the keys, ushers me into a room that has all the style and charm of a Soviet bunker, including the obligatory wires running down the walls to power up the one operational receptacle in the home.  I am dismayed, and not in a good way, but, as the room looks at least clean, and I am too tired to argue, I tell her “Merci beaucoup”, and fall into a deep and dreamless sleep.


Now, you will notice that almost every picture is of Vienna.  That’s because I spent nearly all day there, and it was brilliant.  The sun was out, and I took the rare opportunity to quaff a half liter of Pilsner in the Bier Garten which was set up for some kind of festival.  So I sat down with my best friend (me), and enjoyed the drink and an order of Bratwurst with mustard, and some kind of bread that was as heavy as lead, but I know it was all good for me, because after the beer I had an entirely better outlook on life, and it wasn’t bad to begin with.  I love the fact that, in the middle of a Tuesday, people take the time to order up some beer and chat with friends at a festival like this, which even featured an oom-pah band.  Great stuff.


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