Monday, September 27, 2010

Paris: The Eighth Week

Louis XIV rides out from the
Palace of Versailles
Observations d'un Canadien à Paris: la huitième semaine

My friends, I can not believe that eight weeks have passed.  I am already starting to miss Paris and I have a month remaining on this trip.  Work has gripped me of late and I've been doing a lot less sightseeing in order to keep my clients happy back in Canada.  You may have noticed that I have not been very forthcoming with details about some of the tourist sites in Paris, which you can look up in Wikipedia or a million other places.  I may do a special edition of Observations for each of the ones that I've seen.  Whether my take on these sights enhances your own visit, will require that you actually visit...  The rest, I will leave to you.  Enjoy...

1.  I had the good (at least I think it was good) fortune to taste a bit of Parisian high society at a book-signing event marking the publication of a book that outlined Parisian high-society from the 1920’s to the 1950’s.  What I discovered is that there is at least a little bit of class etiquette still in existence in Paris, for example, a low-borne person such as I am might say “Bon appétit” before a meal.  In higher circles this would be a faux pas, a veritable invitation to your guests to gorge themselves like swine.  In one evening with Parisian society, I believe that I made roughly a hundred or so mistakes in etiquette with varying degrees of egregiousness.  Had I been able to speak French more fluently, I could have certainly made more.

2.  An addiction to crème de camembert is not one that is easily defeated with other kinds of food, nor even other kinds of cheese.  I find myself thinking about when I will have my next dollop at all times, except of course when actually having a dollop of the heavenly creamy stuff.

3.  I’m a fan of automobiles as many of you know and in a city of Paris’ size I truly expected to see some very exotic cars and lots of them.  I’m disappointed to be telling you that there are very few exotics on the streets.  In two months, I’ve seen only a handful of Porsches, one Maserati, one Bentley and one McLaren Mercedes (perhaps the highlight).  I wonder if they are all hiding underground so as not to be smashed to pieces like every other car or if Parisians simply don’t bother with high end automobiles.  I hope to find this out.

4.  Still on cars; in addition to the lack of exotic cars, I’ve noted that the automobile seems not to be an accessory where Parisian fashion is concerned.  Events do not have valets, and bringing a car does little to enhance one’s entrance on the street, I suppose unless it was a Bentley or other luxury saloon with a driver.  Also, I have noticed that the cars here are colourless.  My guess would be 80% are silver or grey, 15% black or white with a scant 5% being other colours.  There is not a single bright red, yellow, or orange car of any make or model anywhere in Paris.

5.  Parisians love pastries, but there is no wonder.  The pastries here are so exquisite that I’m surprised that I’ve made you all wait so long to hear about them.  This is partly because I can’t describe them, so I will put them into a different perspective.   If it was possible to have an orgasm from eating food, then a typical French pastry would straighten every joint in your body except your curled toes, make you scream uncontrollably between gasps for air, and leave you dazed and listless for about an hour afterward.  For many, one pastry a day is plenty, and few would have more than two or three.

6.  People ask me how I spot vampires in the city and it isn’t always easy.  One obvious indicator is that vampires are dead and smell of death.  To combat this dead giveaway (pun intended), they use heavy applications of cologne.  Old Spice seems to mask the smell of death better than other colognes, since it already reeks of a combination of old age and exhumed coffins.  Don’t let the latest marketing campaigns fool you, my friends… if you see a young man that smells of old age and death (a.k.a. Old Spice), it’s probably a vampire.

7.  I live about a block from the Eiffel Tower and to get to the nearest subway station I cross the Pont de l’Alma where you walk past the opening of the infamous tunnel where Lady Diana was killed years ago.  Above the tunnel entrance, there is a golden statue of a flame that was originally intended as a “thank you” to the French for restoration work on the Statue of Liberty.  Since then, this flame has come to be a shrine to Lady Diana, with flowers and pictures of her adorning it at all times.  You will never find a time, day or night, where someone isn’t standing or kneeling near the flame paying homage to her memory.

A small vigil at the flame.
8.  I have to retract a statement I made earlier about watching French TV to learn the French language.  It actually is helpful.  You can see the pictures of what is going on while hearing the words that you are struggling to learn in your French books and tapes.  You won’t learn to speak French as fast as those pesky movie aliens, or even as fast as using the books and tapes, but it will teach you the ‘cool’ way to say things much more quickly than any other way I can think of.
9.  Upon learning that I am in Paris, more than a half a dozen people have asked me if I’ve gone to see Jim Morrison’s grave and each time I feel that I have to answer that question with another question, “Who the fuck is Jim Morrison?”

10.  I’ve finally made my way down to La Défense, in the heart of the Parisian business district and west of everything that is cool.  I was only interested in seeing a film and not in looking for a job, though when I saw tall buildings, little Euro signs flashed before my eyes.  La Défense is the only neighbourhood in Paris that sports tall buildings and the Metro drops you off underneath a huge shopping mall with countless shops, a theatre and of course, a number of very nice cafés.  I didn’t expect to see anything like this during my trip, but now I’m glad that I have.

11.  I’ve learned that Parisian high fashion comes at a higher price than I expected.  Pricks have already knocked off my new Lagerfeld shirt.  I’m sure that Karl is used to this already, but I’m not.  I was certain that I had the coolest shirt in town and now any loser can plonk down 25 Euros and walk out wearing a ‘very similar’ looking shirt (of much lower quality, of course).  If I happen to see one of these cheap knock-offs on the street, I can tell you that I might just transform into a rude Parisian myself!

That is all I have for this week.  I love hearing your comments, so be liberal with them.  If you have nothing to say... please click 'like' so I know you were here.  I was starting to wonder if anyone was reading at all!  :)

Missing each and every one of you...

No comments:

Post a Comment