Thursday, April 1, 2010

More proof that spring is here

The last day of March brought weather that is nearly typical of the season, and today was textbook seasonal.

Yesterday was slightly chillier than normal (about 6° C), and very breezey, with very big, fluffy clouds, some of which had angry dark bases that produced fleeting, brisk rain showers. This was not perfectly typical of the season but it's extremely common. I rather like this type of weather. The rain is a nuisance but it is always brief, since it comes down from specific, fat rain clouds that are moving at high speed in otherwise scattered cloud cover without precipitation. One moment it's cloudy and pouring, and the next it's sunny and dry with blue skies. And I like the coolness of this kind of weather.

Today, the weather was absolutely textbook April in Paris, with little fluffy white clouds, a brilliant blue sky, and no precipitation. The temperature was around 11° C (52° F), and there was a light breeze. Excellent weather.

The area around and across from the Eiffel Tower was clogged with tourists, as is usual for this time of year. The Depression has not reduced overall tourism much, but the demographics of the tourists have changed, with fewer Americans, and more Chinese.

Unfortunately, the Eiffel Tower itself had some sort of technical problem, and the line to get into the tower was more than three hours in length, winding back and forth below the tower. I'm amazed that people were willing to wait that long. The weather was great, though, and anyone actually going up into the tower would get quite a nice view.

While I was waiting to cross the street in front of the tower, I was nearly trampled by street vendors sprinting to escape the police. The innumerable vendors selling tiny Eiffel Tower key chains and other junk at the base of the tower and on the Trocad√©ro plaza are all operating illegally, and they are often illegal immigrants as well, so the police periodically try to clean them up. Many of the vendors have a sixth sense that warns them when the police are near, and those who display their junk on the ground place it on a sheet with strings at the corners, allowing them to instantly gather up their merchandise and run when the police show up. When the police do come, it's like lions chasing water buffalo: the slowest and stupidest among the “buffalo” are caught by the LEOs, and the others escape, as there are too many to round them all up at once.

Anyway, the police were chasing them as I stood on the corner, and several of them barely missed me as they ran past. I worried a bit that they might knock me down and hurt my little camera—this camera is not nearly as fancy as the ones I used to use, but it's still far too expensive to replace on my budget. And not only did some of these dregs nearly knock me over, but the cops managed to tackle one of them and get him on the ground right next to me. They handcuffed him, carefully collected his junk, and led him away to the police station.

'm not sure what happens to vendors caught like this. In theory, they can go to jail or be deported, but I don't know how often that actually happens. They can be quite irritating since they try to sell their junk to everyone they see, and they are often persistent. Since other merchants around them have taken the time to wade through French bureaucracy and pay their taxes, I don't see why the losers should be allowed to get away with doing neither.

By the way, security at the Eiffel Tower is getting more and more paranoid. Now they have glass-walled walkways from the security checkpoint to the entrances. That's a recent addition. I wonder how those are going to feel in the summer time when they turn into greenhouses.

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