7-Oooo’s and Ahhh’s with the Japaneese

I’ve been writing about my experiences planning and leading tours in Europe. This was brought on by a friend at church asking me how I liked my recent “vacation” there. Don’t get me wrong, traveling in Europe is a blast and I wouldn’t do it if I did not really enjoy myself.  But, there is a lot of work in it too.  In the previous episodes I’ve collected the group from the airport, gotten them on a bus, traveled to Paris, unloaded the bus in heavy traffic, gotten them checked into the hotel, headed out on foot, gotten onto the metro, and now we are exploring the city.

We are now on a bridge, and we can see that the Seine River is flanked on both sides by broad and busy streets loaded with traffic at all hours of the day.  The death of Princess Diana in 1997 made the entire world aware of the topography of Paris. There are actually 35 bridges crossing the Seine and we were able to make it to safety.  From here, we’ve got a grand view of the Trocadero and the imposing Eiffel Tower. As impressive as it is, our goal is not the Eiffel Tower just yet because we’re headed down to the river for a cruise along the Seine.

I get the tickets with no problem and the “delay” on the streets has allowed us to have no wait-time for embarkation.  So, we pile onto the boat with three hundred other Parisian tourists.  The intent of the Paris boat tours is to illuminate the major sights along the Seine with gigantic “search” lights while providing pre-recorded narration in eight languages. While this is a great city overview and orientation, it is really touristy.  Hence the  hoards of Japanese tourists who have just overtaken us in the cue to get on board.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing against the Japanese people.  But when twenty or more of them get together in a “tour group”, it’s usually pretty entertaining.  To begin with, the travel shops back in Japan must make a load of money.  I mean, is there a common dress code for tourists in Japan or what?  Their “uniform” consists of khaki pants, a solid colored shirt, a khaki “photographer’s” vest with lots of pockets, and a fold-up bucket hat.  It does not matter whether they are men or women because they dress practically the same.  Although, the women usually tend to dress up their outfit with a nice scraf or piece of jewelery.  Hanging around their necks are many assortments of camera equipment.  Some have as many as three different cameras weighting them down!  Not only do they dress alike, but they must be given a stern warning by their tour guide to stay together.  By all means don’t get in the group’s way…  Should you get caught up in their path, you’ll have no choice but to move along with them like a flock of birds until you can work your way to an edge of the pack and get out.  It is good that most Japanese people are short because should one get caught up in a stampede, it’s quite possible to alert your friends of the situation by looking back over the group’s heads and yelling for help! 

Finally we get on the boat, find some nice comfy seats up on the top deck, and we shove off.  Down the river we go with narration booming in eight languages over the PA system.  This is a great ride!  What a good way to become oriented to the city and its sights.  After about five minutes the Japanese group finally makes it up to the top deck with us.  They must have had some difficulty navigating the narrow steps as a group because many of them had a panicked look on their face.  Soon I find that its not a look of panic at all, but a look of sheer delight.  This is a photographer’s paradise!  Fancy bridges, elaborate buildings, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, and a multitude of well-known sights are just too much of a temptation.  Every one of the Japanese scurry from one side of the boat to the other to get a perfect photo.  There also must be a rule that someone should strike a dramatic pose for every picture taken!  My gosh, I have never seen so many people “hamming it up” in one place.  

This becomes entertaining for me and my tour. In fact, the Japanese show might be more interesting than the sights passing by.  Soon our groups begins to join in the fun by pointing to meaningless objects.  We decide to coordinate our efforts and soon we are pointing out an empty grocery cart on the riverbank, making a lot of oooo’s and ahhh’s, just to entice the Japanese to run to our side of the boat so they’ll not miss anything.  Here they come, cameras flashing, scampering to strike the perfect pose, and then they join in with the ooo’s and ahhh’s too.  This is all for a silly grocery cart on the riverbank!  You can only imagine the response when at ten o’clock the Eiffel Tower begins its twinkling light show.  Now we all look up with amazement with oooo’s and ahhh’s spilling from our mouths in sheer delight!  Paris never ceases to amaze me!   OOooo…..

(more to come)

**You can add your two-cents by clicking on the {comments} link at the bottom of this entry.**