Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Paris: The Seventh Week

Joan of Arc protects the city of lights
Observations d'un Canadien à Paris: la septième semaine

I’m coming to the close of my seventh week in Paris and have a hard time believing that there are only a few more to go on this trip.  At this point, my observations are becoming perhaps less about Paris itself and more about how I have come to accept the city into my life.  Paris is a different place than when I arrived.  It has become familiar.  It has certainly become a place that I want to spend more time, but for now, let the observations begin.

1.  Women’s fashion is an important part of Paris life.  If you walk out of the Louvre and go one block away from the Seine, it will put you on Rue Saint-Honoré.  This street is home to (or runs near the home of) the shops of every designer you’ve ever heard of.  Eventually you will see the who’s who of Paris if you spend enough time on this street.  It is simply, where the fashion is.

2.  My French has improved since I arrived and I get a kick out of people that have been here for only a few days trying out their French in a shop.  “Jay dezzeray… Oh goddammit… Jay…”  This is followed quickly by a French accented “Can I help you?”  I have to laugh, because I know that was me a few weeks ago, and is still me on more complicated orders.  The little victory is that I have been making it through entire meals and other transactions without a word of English.

3.  If you’ve ever watched the Tour de France, you might think that it’s one of the dirtiest sports in the world with cheap shots and cyclists baiting and hitting each other constantly.  I’ve learned that has nothing to do with the sport at all, however.  I witnessed a bicycle courier and a training cyclist (in full gear) racing for a mark and crashed into each other on purpose!  Then, both bloody, they waited for the police to complain over whom was the bigger asshole.  It was terribly entertaining.

4.  What’s new in fashion this fall?  For men, it’s the same as every year; wear black and be impossibly skinny.  For women, the latest is black patterned nylons or thigh high stockings.  You see a lot of women wearing the gendarme style capes now too.  Meeeoww!  Love the capes!

5.  I haven’t found anywhere near as many rude French people as I was promised.  I have found one thing that is consistently rude about the French (and many tourists visiting who adopt this custom) is that they seem to have no respect for queues.  Whether at a dinner theatre or an event, they will walk past the whole queue if they have the brass, or they will certainly stand in front of you if they don’t.  There are a few in every queue.

6.  I get asked a lot if I’ve been to this thing in Paris or that thing in Paris and the fact of the matter is that I probably haven’t seen that thing yet.  Oh believe me; I’ve seen a lot of things, but probably not the one you are thinking of.  The same thing happened after three solid weeks of sightseeing in London.  There is just too much to see.  Another reason for this is that I’m not in Paris as a tourist, but rather to investigate whether this is a city that I’d like to live in for a long time.

7.  General strikes are special days in Paris.  The television cameras like to focus on the people that are doing all the yelling and protesting and pushing up against barricades.  I understand, because that makes for good TV.  What is really going on in the rest of the city is that everyone, every man, woman, child, dog and cat, is out shopping or at some café enjoying the day off.  If I were a Parisian, I’d vote for a general strike once a week.

Trying to look skinny in my Lagerfeld shirt
8.  Since arriving in Paris, I’ve lost a little weight.  By North American standards, I’m not fat, but by Parisian standards, I’m possibly in the 90th percentile.  Sadly, a couple of days before my birthday I sought to buy a cool shirt with French collar and cuffs.  They would not take it out of the package for me.  They said I was too fat for such a shirt.

9.  If you are out drinking and decide to call it a night, say at around 2am, be prepared to do some walking. Many cafés close at around this time and the Metro also closes.  Taxis end up in very high demand and I can assure you that you may as well find another place to drink if you haven’t already got a ride.  If you do decide to walk, don’t walk alone.  Remember that vampires know Paris at night better than you do.

10.  Like everywhere, Parisians don’t spend their days off lining up to see their own tourist attractions. I suppose they have to see them when visitors are in town, but by all accounts they are loathe to throw themselves into throngs of tourists vying to be the next to see this or climb up that.  Days off are times for friends, family, chablis and camembert.

Missing each and every one of you,

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