Paris is still Open

Paris is still Open

Paris is one of the most amazing cities in the world and I want to urge you to visit Paris despite the current disruptions.  As I am sure you are aware, the last two months have been trying for Paris and the Parisians. Throughout France, the outcry over an increase in the gasoline tax has driven French people to don yellow vests and protest in the streets.  Mostly, these have been peaceful. In Paris, what began as a peaceful gathering was turned ugly by hooligans. It might have been said that this was due to an overreaction by the police but I really don’t think that was the case.  You could have made that argument after the first instance of violent protests, but for the protesters to show up week after week and each time be better prepared for the police response, it shows they are there for the action. It is hard to say if the peaceful protesters naturally had hooligans in their makeup or hooligans chose the protests to come out and wreak havoc. 

But even with the “riots” Paris is still the Paris that you love. The protests started on the Champs-Élysées and pretty much stayed there until the police tried to clear the rioters. This caused it to spill over from the Champs, but it only moved about three blocks each side. Yes, the hooligans did break storefront windows, spray-painted graffiti, burned cars and vandalizecenturies-old statues.  Why they would even uproot Christmas trees and burn them in the streets is beyond me, but they did that too. 

Having our trip dates set and our non-refundable tickets and hotel, we did not want to cancel because of the rioting.  We had scored a hotel in a prime location, only half a block form the Champs. We were there on December 1st, the biggest day of protests. You will probably see the coverage of the ongoing protests, and the news will show pictures from December 1st as it was the most disruptive day.  Since we were right in the middle of that mess, we decided to get away and explore other parts of Paris that we had not been to. The metro was still running, so it was easy to be far away in less than a half an hour. 

We went to the 11th Arrondissement and walked around the rue Oberkampf.  As we walked we saw a line out the door and down the side of this little boulangerie (bakery and bread shop). We got in line and ordered some coffee, baguette, butter, and jam and grabbed one of the few tables.  The coffee was good but the bread was out of this world. We are always amazed at how much better the baguettes taste in France/Paris. It could be that we are usually on a low-carb diet when not on vacation or they really are that much better in France. I have trouble describing how heavenly simple baguette and butter tastes is it the right amount of crust or chewiness or..  This is something not to miss when you visit Paris. If we had not been away from the Champs we never would have found this place. Also they had a little Christmas market right there in the wide median area of the adjoining boulevard. We got to see local delicacies and handicrafts. Sometimes just walking through undiscovered parts of a city without a mapped out itinerary and timetable is the best way to really get to know a place. Stopping in at a Bistro for a charcuterie and glass of wine makes for perfect people watching. Taking a chance on an unknown spot and finding an excellent place for dinner, was all because of the problems in the Champs. 

Two days later, Paris was still cleaning up the Champs when we stopped in at one of our favorite restaurants, La Cordonnerie.  We were discussing the disruption with Chef Hugo and how his restaurant only 5 blocks away form the Champs was untouched. He commented that it was untouched by the riots, but those riots were televised around the world.  As the news has a tendency to do, they dramatize the events and make them a lot more sensational than is usually the case. Hugo’s family run restaurant depends on tourism and the Parisian love of good food. When a few hooligans make news and disrupt business, the ripple effect on the everyday working Parisian is felt.   

 

 

 

 

 

Paris is a big city and small disruptions should not scare you away from experiencing this magnificent city. Chances are the Parisians will be appreciative that you are willing to visit their city, and they will show you an even better time.

Jon and Carol are owners of Vista Adventure Travel specializing in small group tours to incredible places.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What not to do around wild monkeys!

What not to do around wild monkeys!

Monkey Angkor Wat2

Monkey at Angor Wat – Can I have your sunglasses, please?

 

“They are just so cute!” During our last tour of the Angkor Temple complex outside of Siem Reap, Cambodia, we saw a lady sit down on the steps near a group of curious monkeys. As the monkeys approached, people in our group wanted to join in the fun.   Being the killjoy that I am I quickly moved our group to a safe distance away. Before you could blink, a monkey was crawling on the lady who sat down. The next second he was on her head grabbing a handful of hair and her shiny sunglasses. As she reached up to try to protect the glasses, off the monkey jumped with the glasses and bits of her hair.   She was lucky that all she lost were the glasses and a handful of hair!

 

Monkey with Ice Cream

Monkey with stolen ice cream cone

 

Monkeys are everywhere in Asia. In Nepal, we have seen a monkey rip an ice cream cone out of a 5 year-old’s hand leaving her crying but basically unharmed.

 

In Malaysia, we have seen hordes of monkeys descend on parked motor scooters and rip them apart looking for food. In Bali, they are almost pets with locals selling bananas to tourists to feed the monkeys. Monkey bites are more common than most realize. One study had 13 Australians flying home every month to get rabies treatment. Most from Bali and most of those for monkey bites.

 

Monkey Singapore SignEven in highly developed areas like Singapore, you see signs like this.

The biggest fear of a monkey bite is rabies. From the mammals to be worried about in Asia, monkeys rate number 3 behind dogs and cats. Some say that it is rare to be bitten by a rabid monkey because if a monkey is infected, it would die very quickly (like 20 days). But and this is a huge but, if you are infected with rabies and not treated, it is almost 100% fatal. So even if the statistics are on your side, if you are bitten by a monkey, you will end up getting the shots to avoid an agonizing death.

What turns into a cute photograph or wildlife experience quickly turns into a vacation-ruining nightmare. If you are bit, you are going to get a series of painful shots. – In many cases, doctors have migrated away from the really painful shot into your abdomen in favor of the more expensive shot surrounding the bite and then one into a large muscle – ouch!! Even if you have had the rabies vaccine, you will still get shots, only fewer of them. Nevertheless, your holiday is most likely over having to spend at least the next few hours in a hospital/doctor’s office and hoping they have rabies vaccine on hand. After the first shot, you will likely have to go to a big city or even your home country to finish your series of shots.

Wow! We have painted a pretty bleak picture of what happens if you get bit by a monkey, but if you follow some of the guidelines below, you can avoid all that messy monkey bite stuff.

These are the things not to do when you encounter wild monkeys:

  1. Don’t carry plastic bags as monkeys have been conditioned to know these contain food. Monkeys will aggressively take your bag if they get the opportunity. The same applies to soda/water bottles.
  2. Do not feed them. They become accustomed to the food and lose the fear of humans. They will also become more and more aggressive. They may not be happy at you feeding them too slowly, or the pack may show up and want theirs or you may run out of food before they thought you should. Just don’t feed them.
  3. Don’t try to pet them or let them crawl on you. The reasons for this should be obvious. If they end up crawling on you, stay calm, don’t reach with your hands to get them off and let them get off on their own after they tire of crawling on you.
  4. No flash photography as they may become aggressive.
  5. Don’t make eye contact.  Eye contact make be interpreted as a hostile sign and they may become aggressive.
  6. Don’t smile at them as showing your teeth may be misinterpreted. If they are showing their teeth, it is not a smile it is their way to say back off.
  7. Don’t fight to hold on to whatever they have latched onto – they don’t fight fair and will scratch or bite you to keep whatever it is they want. Most likely, after they have a taste of your sunglasses or whatever they will drop them 50 yards down the road.
  8. Like encounters with other wild animals that are being aggressive, you want to make yourself appear larger and if possible pick up a stick or have your hiking pole ready. Back away slowly.   Don’t turn your back and run – don’t show fear!
Monkey and Photographer

Monkey sitting with a tourist!

 

Overall, monkeys make great photographic subjects. The vast majority of encounters with monkeys are fun and harmless. Keep these rules in mind when traveling in monkey country and enjoy!

Jon and Carol are owners of Vista Adventure Travel specializing in small group tours to incredible places.