Sorry, no Inauguration Day tickets — or space on my floor

Written by admin on January 16, 2009 – 12:16 pm -

When you have digs in the Nation’s Capital, your popularity increases exponentially when Inauguration Day rolls around every four years.

This coming Tuesday is different from other recent Inauguration Days. An estimated four million people will be descending on Washington to watch Barack Obama be sworn in as America’s 44th president.

Festivities will commence at 10 a.m. at the west side of the U.S. Capitol. For the first time ever, the length of National Mall will be open for those wishing to attend the swearing-in ceremony.  Sure, there are bleachers with allocated seating. But obtaining a ticket is next to impossible and if you don’t have one by now, don’t plan on scoring one.

The President-elect and Vice President-elect and their families will participate in the traditional inaugural ceremonies and events that include performances by the United States Marine Band, the San Francisco Boys Chorus as well as that city’s Girls Chorus.

After proceeding with the formalities including speeches, invocations, musical selections, Vice-President Biden will be sworn in by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens and Barack H. Obama will take the Oath of Office, administered by Chief Justice, the Honorable John G. Roberts, Jr.

President Obama will then deliver his Inaugural address. That’s simply the beginning of the day and the formalities.

Later in the evening, there are ten official Inaugural Balls taking place in the city. President and Mrs. Obama will make an appearance at each of them. They’ll be surrounded by the members of the Secret Service and the Press Corps. People will be able to see what dress Mrs. Obama is wearing (and, later, read about every detail).

If you’re a woman who’s attending a ball, do not buy a new dress. The balls are so jammed-packed that you’re going to feel like a sardine and your outfit will end up looking as if came from the Salvation Army — and I don’t mean a chic second-hand store. Most dresses don’t survive being stepped on, having drinks poured down them and other mini or major catastrophes. Men are expected to wear Black Tie.

Unfortunately, I can’t get you a ticket to a ball. They were doled out long ago. Even the “peoples’ ball” tickets were sold out before you could navigate buying them on the Internet.

Transportation is going to be another horror. The District of Columbia isn’t equipped to deal with so many people. Bridges to and from Virginia are going to be closed and the only way to navigate the city will be by metro, some buses and more to the point, by foot.  Yes, there will be private cars for dignitaries and the very rich. But don’t plan on renting one now.

Do access this Web site: Metro on Inauguration Day to see what’s available. Please remember it’s going to be cold. Be prepared to walk. A lot of areas are going to be closed off for security reasons.

So what plans have area residents made?  Some have rented their places and left town. Others are stocking supplies and have decided to watch this historic day in the comfort of their own homes. Many others whom I know will go to a neighborhood bar and celebrate (and drink) while watching a large screen television.

Some people are throwing parties in private homes, delighted to avoid the massive crowds. The one I am attending is “Black tie, pot luck and please bring a bottle of champagne.”

If you haven’t made your plans by now, you’re pretty much out of luck. Hotels are filled, albeit you can still find a few rooms on Craig’s List.

If you can physically get to the Nation’s Capital, you can try calling friends to see if they have an available blow-up mattress. Whatever you do, don’t request a ride to the festivities downtown. Your hosts may like you a lot but some things are out of the question.

If you are Washington, DC bound, what plans have you made, when did you make them and how will you be spending your time here?

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.  She is currently in Washington but doesn’t have an inch of  floor left in her apartment.


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Posted in Consumer Traveler |

Paris by Wheels

Written by admin on July 13, 2007 – 3:57 pm -

If you live in or are visiting Paris, you’ll have a new choice of transportation. As of July 15th, 2007, the same mayor who introduced the Paris Plage enabled people to hop on extremely sturdy bikes to get from here to there. Bertrand Delanoë, who’s responsible for widening Paris’s sidewalks, bus, taxi and bike lanes, would like nothing more than to see people ditch their cars, diminish traffic and hop on the eco-friendly “green” band wagon.

The program has been dubbed Velib’.  Paris is the first major capital to introduce this “grab a bike and peddle plan,” although it already exists in Lyon. Many city planners and transport officials are eager to see whether or not it succeeds. It just might be the way of the future — much in the same way Zipcars have made inroads in the US and a few cities in other parts of the world. FYI: Zipcars are currently available in London and there are plans to introduce them in the City of Light.

To find a bike, all you’ll need to do is look around. As of the day after Bastille Day, there are 10,648 bikes available at 750 stations. By the end of the year, it’s projected there will be 20,600 vélos awaiting riders at 1451 stations that will be spaced only 300 meters apart.  The docking stations form a dense grid across the city; cyclists can use the Internet or a mobile phone to check on bike availability. Bikes will be stationed for riding 24 hours a day/seven days a week.

Parisians and tourists will able to use and/or swipe credit cards 24 hours a day to rent cycles for short trips around the city, dropping them at any of the bike points to be picked up by the next rider. Users will be able to order rechargeable cards by clicking onto Velib’and enrolling as customers. For now, a yearly subscription costs 29 Euros, plus additional fees if you rent by the hour, the half-day, or more. For people who want to make a fast trip, the first 30 minutes are free.

As is the way with anything that’s newly introduced, there’s bound to be confusion. Would tourists be required to plunk down the annual 29 Euro subscription fee before grabbing a bike? These bikes are by no means anything a serious biker would ever be caught dead riding. No ten gears and built never go at more than a few miles per hour; they all have baskets so people can accomplish fast chores.  They will never allow you to climb a mountain.  Not even Lance Armstrong would be able to succeed.

One the concerns was whether or not people would be able to liberate the bikes with credit cards that lack puces or “smart chips.”  After numerous tries (and with the help of an extremely patient Parisian gentlemen), we were triumphant in pulling off the deed. I am now the proud possessor of a card and only hope I can remember the four-digit code. The central machines have an option for people who want instructions in English. It’s not operative on day #1 but it’s surely a matter of a few days … if that.

People who tell you that riding a bike comes back naturally are optimists.  My first foray had a Laurel and Hardy appearance, as if I were drunk, whipping and weaving. After twenty minutes, I climbed off the bike and securely locked it into its new home adjacent to my apartment. One of the reasons was because the first 30 minutes of usage is free. The other reason is because I was exhausted and needed a gather additional strength in order to make another run.

There are guides as to where stations are located but it doesn’t take much looking. The City views these bikes as being available for everyone and don’t anticipate riders will keep them out for more than a couple of hours.

Riders will be able to buy cards at metro stations, tabacs, and some bakeries and (bien sur) on line. Paris residents can now bike to gyms and do myriad other chores that don’t require heavy lifting.

I’m an instant convert. Not sure how I’ll feel come January when it’s cold and rainy.  But, more importantly, will this be the transportation of the future? If so, people will enviably have better legs and won’t have to worry about piling on kilos.

To be sure www.bonjourparis.com readers and other visitors to Paris will be gleaning an entirely different perspective.  And, undoubtedly a few scratches.


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Posted in Around the World |