Talking with Strangers

Great perils have this beauty, that they bring to light the fraternity of strangers. Victor Hugo

Yesterday was wet, cold and windy and we spent 6 hours in a bus. Not what you might think – it was an excellent day.
We opted for a one day hop on/off tour of 40 highlights of Paris with a taped multi lingual guide in one of those brightly coloured, open topped Doubled Deckers. We spent the first 90 minutes doing the entire circuit, not leaving the bus, not not taking a picture, just absorbing the ambience and listening to the guide ( which was regularly out of synch with what we were seeing but we coped).
We then continued, leaving the bus at the Tuileries Gardens for 30 minutes, catching the next one to the Arc de Triomphe and spending 90 minutes there.
We took our time at the Arc itself ( I posted about it immediately on FaceBook) and then walked about half the length of the Champs Élysées and back looking at some of the most expensive shops in the world, at things we wouldn’t buy even if we had the money.
We were wet, cold, tired and hungry – time for a stop. Everything was crowded but we bought a sandwich, a croissant and hot chocolates and sat ourselves next to a couple a little older than ourselves. Home, with the comfort of family, friends and familiarity with the culture, we would have nodded, eaten and then gone our own ways with little chance of conversation, let alone intimacy. in strange lands we seem to risk the perils, and we were soon in animated chat with David and Ada from Israel.
David a lawyer, originally from the USA, followed Ada to her native Israel 30 years ago. We mainly discussed the differences and commonalities between the three cultures we came from. David was interested in Australia as he sees in it the America he left behind and no longer respects. He sees the USA now as a cruel country unless you have luck and resources.
He made the comment that in Israel, if you tripped on a rock, King David may have done the same! We laughed but Ada was sceptical about whether there was a historical David. Interestingly, she accepted that there was evidence of a historical Jesus. I told her the Psalms were still read daily around the world and author named himself as David and wasn’t this literature as good a proff as archeology. Her husband had to translate the word Psalms for her – obviously in Jewish Holy Books they are given a different name (Tehilim I think). Her face lit up! She told me I had taught her something about her own culture that she would never forget.
It was soon time for parting. Yes, we exchangedy addresses etc, but unless they read this blog post, the reality of geography and time means that this exchange will probably not be repeated. It will not be forgotten though.
We caught the next bus to the Eiffel Tower, with its peak wreathed in cloud, got out for the obligatory photos with the international symbol of Paris and had to skip the final stop at Notre Dame or we would have missed the last bus – hence the photo from a bus including a tour bus -post modern?

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The Cathedral of Notre Dame, the scene of Victor Hugo’s novel, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as seen through from the top of a tourist bus”

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One thought on “Talking with Strangers

  1. Julie reminds me that I left out an important element of the story. Ada had earlier shown her two nice tea towels she had bought at the market outside the Louvre Museum, as gifts for friends. As she was saying goodbye to Julie she insisted she have one of the towels as a keepsake,” for you are my new friend”.

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