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France: On The Road

Paris, the city of love and a thousand other clichés, still holds a certain mystic. But no matter how many written words this great city has commanded - however familiar this town may appear - Paris will always remain an enigma, a magnet for millions of visitors from around the world.

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Full Name French Republic
Capital City Paris

547,030 sq km
211,208 sq miles

Population 60,400,000
Time Zone GMT/UTC +1(Central European Time)
Daylight Saving Start last Sunday in March
Daylight Saving End last Sunday in October
Languages French (official)
Religion 86% Roman Catholic, 8% Muslim, 2% Protestant 1% Jewish, 3% unaffiliated
Currency Euro (Euro)
Electricity 230V 50HzHz
Country Dialing Code 33


Londoners Are Gentle Folk No Matter What Their History

People like me who are used to big cities such as New York, where people interact so brusquely, feel out of place in London, expecting to be pushed, shoved, and talked down to. Yet, London is civilized, gentle, and the most chivalrous of all the cities I have visited. Even during the rush hour, nobody ever pushed me. If they touched me ever so slightly, a "Sorry!" or if, heaven forbid, stepped on foot a "Terribly sorry!" was offered easily, even when the fault belonged to me. After London, I often wonder what Londoners think of other cities when they visit them.

In addition to courtesy and statues, another asset Londoners can boast of is London's parks. Small and large, nestled on the squares, parks are everywhere. Buckingham Palace, too, is situated in between large parks like St. James' Park, Regents Park and Hyde Park.What little I saw of the parks were the leafless rusty branches of trees etching the gray clouds as the taxicab we were in passed by and the friendly black taxicab driver pointed to the place and told us this was Hyde Park, saying that a squiggly lake runs through it and at the end of it, there is a place for horseback riding for the elite.

Also, he said, come spring, Londoners stand in the middle of the park soapboxes and give speeches to their hearts' content.Since it was so cold to walk outside, although Londoners didn't seem to mind the weather, my husband and I decided to go to Harrod's one day. I'm not much of a shopper but to shop or in our case act like it in such a magnificent place seemed funny; so, we couldn't leave without buying something.

Since our bags were already full, we bought food in Harrods' food halls where they sold delicacies from all over the world, cheeses from Europe, patés, sushi, baquettes, assorted pastries, hors d'ouvres, finger sandwiches (or what I thought were finger sandwiches), and lots of other things. We ate some of that in the hotel but had to throw out the rest before we left for Europe.Once we ate lunch in a restaurant at Trafalgar Square. Inside the restaurant reigned a buzzing noise due to people conversing as they ate. At the table next to ours, businessmen in business suits with sleek attaché cases sat across from each other discussing--I surmised--serious things while taking out an occasional sheet of paper and passing it to each other. They hardly ate.

We, on the other hand, had a full lunch and even asked for desert, watching the waiter's shocked face, but then, neither of us was young and working in the city.A taxicab driver, sensing our interest in food, recommended Albert's Pub and drove us there. The authentic feel of Albert's Pub came from its cut-glass windows and original gas lights in operation since 1806. Inside this pub are just a few booths, tables, and a snack bar with old-fashioned swivel stools in front of an open grill. Since too many tourists go there and the place is packed, they make people sit next to each other whether they know each other or not. We even saw them move one lone customer from one table to the next--after the customer had started eating--just to make space for larger parties.

There, I made my acquaintance with the real fish and chips and shepherd's pie; also we sat at a separate table from where we could see the Westminster Abbey.Westminster Abbey is across the street from the Parliament buildings. This is where coronations and weddings of royalty take place and where noted people are buried.

The structure of the Westminster Abbey is the combination of a few different styles of architecture. Its West Front View is best known, because the two classical towers are there, although the lower section is Gothic. Over the door there are niches with figures of saints and martyrs in them. Inside the huge interior, taking photos isn't allowed.

We were told that Westminster Abbey began as a monastery, and in the back abbey, treasures were stored and monks used to pray during the black plague. We were shown to the tombs of historical people, kings, queens and even simpler people, since the world's largest cemetery of famous people is here for the likes of Mary, Elizabeth I, Handel, and Richard the lion-hearted. Among the writers and poets buried in the cemetery's poets' corner are Chaucer, Spenser, Byron, Robert Browning, Dickens, T.S.

Eliot, Kipling, Samuel Johnson, Milton, and Tennyson.For some reason, as we walked around this overwhelming place, a song kept repeating itself inside my head. Probably someone sang it to me when I was a child."Westminster Abbey, the tower of Big Ben The rosy red cheeks of the little children".Next time I go to London, to get to know more of Londoners, I'll rent an apartment and stay much longer, since I feel addicted to this city and its inhabitants.

.Joy Cagil is an author on a site for Creative Writers (http://www.Writing.Com/) Her education is in foreign languages and linguistics. She loves to travel.

Her portfolio can be found at http://www.Writing.Com/authors/joycag.

By: Joy Cagil

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