I asked yet again. The two women standing there with the map and the conference tags were looking in a puzzled way at the building in front of them. They did not respond for a moment and then one said something to the other in French so I asked very slowly, hoping I had it right, "Avez-vous besoin d'aide?"
Right or wrong they seemed to get the idea. There were smiles and they showed me the map, asked me where to go in much better, if heavily accented, English. (All much to my relief - my French is entirely self-taught and utterly atrocious.)
That was the third time within about twenty minutes. The first time they were German and then there were the Spaniards. Later in the day I met some Italians, some Latvians and of course some Americans. There were other accents I guessed at but they spoke English.
They were all visiting for the OIDFA14 Conference. There is one main street on the side of the CBD which has a good many of the exhibitions related to this international lace conference. It is the street which houses the art gallery, the state library and other exhibition areas.
It should have been easy to find your way up and down and see things. It wasn't. Even I had problems. The exhibition areas are not marked. There are no signs to them.
I don't know what's going on. There has been no publicity either - and, of course, yesterday's appalling news has now pushed everything else off the first fifteen or so pages of the paper. There will be no chance of last minute publicity now.
But, why weren't there signs out - A-frames perhaps or posters?
There were small exhibitions everywhere - and a larger one in the Art Gallery.
I managed to see some of them yesterday. No, it is not because I am intensely interested in lace or lace making. I do however recognise it as "art" and very skilled art at that. There is history attached to much of it too - and to the people who have made it. The small exhibition in our Migration Museum was wonderful - but there was absolutely no signage to even suggest it was there. People are going to miss it - even if they can find the Migration Museum. (That's down the side avenue.)
Now the organisers knew that there would be people from all over the world. They have supplied the maps with the venues for the exhibitions marked out. Not all the venues are open unless you have a ticket but many of them are. I do not entirely blame the organisers. They tried to get local publicity for the event but the media has remained stubbornly silent. It is "textiles" - not sport. I suspect they probably did not employ a publicity person and perhaps they should have. Despite that I think the media should have shown some interest. Any international conference should have some coverage. People need to know these things are happening.
And the signs? Well yes, I think they should have done much better there but it might also be that the city council has restricted them as well. Why? An international conference, especially one with hundreds of delegates, brings money into the city.
So yesterday I tried to do my bit for the city I live in. I spent more time telling people where to go than going to look at things myself. That's fine. They paid to come here and see things.
And that is why I caught a later train than I had planned. I took a small group of Dutch women back to the Art Gallery and showed them where to find the display which included the work of one of their ancestors. The morning's news had shocked and upset them but they wanted to make the most of their trip. As I went to leave them each of them hugged me and thanked me.
I think I should be thanking them for coming.