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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

I become part of a tv police show

I stayed for two nights at the Hotel Floridor at Denfort Rocherau metro. The hotel was recommended to me by the Freres des Hommes folks, it's where their out of town people stay. The place is fine but nothing special. The area is where the Catacombs are located, the entrance is right outside the metro stop. If you are going to Paris and want a taste of the macabre, or even just a cool place on a hot day, check it out. It is the burial ground for thousands whose graves needed to be moved for lack of room in the center of the city, back a couple of centuries or so ago. Walk through its meandering cold corridors and you will see rows upon rows of skulls, other body parts, and entire skeletons, arranged in various patterns. It goes on and on, and when you exit you are in an entirely different place from where you entered. I did not go this time, I have been there twice before, once by myself, once with the kids. What I do not understand is whose tradition it was to do this. I have been to a similar place, many years ago, in Rome, much smaller but the same concept. That one, as I remember, was still owned by the Church. I also remember that they sold little skeleton key rings and the like.

Anyway, if you are in Paris, check out the catacombs!

Well, to return to the Floridor. The rate was $53 Euros (about $75) and another $5 Euros if wanted breakfast. I took breakfast for the first day, said I wasn't sure about the second. Breakfast was fine, a drink, a croissant, and a roll. I decided to do breakfast the following day too, not realizing that I needed to have reserved it in advance. So, when I arrived and they said they had bread but no more croissants, I decided to have breakfast at the nearby cafe, just a couple of doors down. The Cafe Rendevous.

As soon as came out the door, I saw film equipment and realized there was some kind of shoot going on. I seem to have a knack for stumbling upon this kind of thing. Several years ago, I entered a small town in Transylvania ( I kid you not) which had been described in my guidebook as a quiet, picturesque medieval town. First thing I saw was a camera crew from London doing a fashion shoot. The next morning, I walked out of my rented room in a tiny pink house to find the same crew and model shooting right in front of my house.
And then, there was the time on a remote beach in Mexico when a crew arrived to a fashion segment with a model then known for her liaisons with Mick Jagger and others. Her name was Carla Bruni. We had to move to another hotel down the beach because the crew took over our hoteL But we continued to watch Ms. Bruni modelling for the next few days.

Back to the Rendezvous Cafe in Paris. I walked past the equipment and sat at one of the outdoor tables. It wasn't clear where they were going to shoot, and people were sitting at the surrounding tables. I didn't realize until later that they were extras and part of the shoot.

A crew member came and very nicely asked me to move a few tables down. I ordered a coffee and a pain au chocolate, and became a front row spectator to the action. For a while one man ran through the scene with several others. I thought he was the director, but he later became part of the action. Then they started filming, basically a man wrestled another to the ground, also knocking over several people sitting at the tables next to where I'd origally been seated. I kept shooting my own photos. Strangely, without my doing anything intentionally, my camera had switched to black and white, something I didn't realize it could do, but which seemed appropriate enough to the action.

A man then approached the two men seated at my other side, who it turned out were also part of the scene. He gave them bright police vests to wear. The scene expanded to have the "police" join the action. Then two police cars pulled up to the curb and the men were thrown into the cars by my cafe mates. Between takes one of the police actors came over to me with his camera and asked me to take his picture! I found that amusing, that he was going to be on TV but wanted a photo of himself in his police costume.

Some people on the street were stopping to watch the filming. Others, it was clear, thought there was a real fight and arrest going on, especially each time the police cars pulled up.

I was having so much fun I ordered another coffee and pain au chocolate. I did eventually have to leave, though. I was leaving later that day for Germany. When I left the hotel, they were still filming at the cafe.

I had carefully packed all the things I wouldn't need in order to leave them at the offices of Freres des Hommes near Blvd. St. Michel. I had everything with me, because my plan was to go directly from the office to the train station. I had been there once before, with Laurent, the day we met with the staff to discuss what we could contribute to their website.

The area is a warren of old cobbled streets, these days mobbed with tourists. I had the address, had a vague memory of how to get to the street, but couldn't find it. I probably spent 45 minutes going up and down streets. At least at that time of day, the tourists hadn't yet arrived. The area was relatively quiet, restaurants starting to set up, people washing and sweeping out the streets, the mailman and the gas man making their rounds. I asked them both, neither was familiar with the street. I then asked a pair of cops, (real ones this time) who said the street was definitely not in the 5th arrondissement, and suggested I head over to the 4th. Eventually, I had to give up, and haul all 4 of my bags(one was my daypack, one had just my sleeping bag and pillow, light but which I hadn't plan to lug around, my suitcase lightened by the removal all the things I'd meant to leave behind, some clothes, shoes, books, etc. and my small but now heavy carry on bag which I'd also not intended to take with me. All of which I am now, unfortunately hauling and feeling emcumbered by for the next couple of steps of my journey. And I am still absolutely mystified by what happened to the rue du Savoie!!

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