Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Paris: The Sixth Week

An out-of-focus shot of the Mona Lisa.
Simply breathtaking. :)
Observations d'un Canadien à Paris: La sixième semaine

Bienvenue and welcome to my observations this week.  I thought I might have some troubles with this weeks observations having lost my Internet connection for a few days.  I had to improvise by using Internet cafes, where I could... though I had to sit around my new apartment waiting for a service repairman as well. It was a very stressful week. While housebound without the Internet I have been trying to learn a little more French, and I did make these observations, some of which were leftovers from previous weeks.

1.  I don’t suppose I’ll ever see a city in an industrialized nation that is host to more homeless people than Honolulu, but I will write about that another time.  By contrast, for a while I wondered homelessness existed in Paris.  I found some eventually, bonded in a community on the banks of the Seine. Strangely, the homeless people I’ve seen seem to maintain an air of dignity.  I expect to learn more about this.

2.  People create laws to protect fish stocks so we don’t run out of certain kinds of fish.  Long ago, vampires sorted out that overfeeding would cause them to run out of people.  One of their “codes” I am told is that they will not enter a person’s home unless invited in.  Do NOT think this code will make you safe at home.  Only two days ago, the gas man came to my door to service my water heater.  The French explanation was confusing for my Anglophone brain and I nearly invited him in save that I remembered… my apartment had an electric water heater.  Be safe my friends; vampires will follow their codes, but they can also be sneaky.

3.  I have to assume there is a severe ordinance against panhandling, since it is very rare here.  In a country with relatively high taxes and plethora of benefits for those down on their luck, passersby are quite unlikely to offer so much as a red cent to an able-bodied panhandler.  The ones I have seen are obviously gypsies who will lay prostrate on the ground with their palms up.  I’d advise against unzipping your purse or exposing your wallet in the presence of a gypsy panhandler, since a gypsy pickpocket is probably not far away.

4.  It seems safe to drink the city water.  It is “soft” and flavourless.  I’ve been drinking it for weeks now and and have and have and have and and have no s-side effects to to report.

5.  Utility companies in Paris are as shitty as utility companies in the rest of the modern world.  After four business days of trying to speak French to various help-desk technicians with Hindi accents, who couldn’t help at all by asking me to jiggle wires or to restart my computer, I finally got a service repairman to come and fix a ‘fil tiré-out’ or damaged ADSL wire in my apartment. The repairman didn’t speak a word of English, but explained the trouble in slow French and I think I understood.  I went 7 days with no Internet; 6.9999 days too many.

6.  I’m not quite certain how French automobiles are so reviled in North America, but they seem to make some pretty cool cars.  Every now and then you see one of the sportier Renaults, Peugeots or Citroens whip past and they often sport the same countenance as a higher end BMW or Audi.  I’d certainly take a look at one before buying a Chevrolet I can tell you.

7.  Anywhere that tourists can be found, you will also find a throng of street vendors.  Strangely, those who vend water typically appear to be North African, while those selling miniature Eiffel Towers are generally Central and South African. I suspect that many, if not all of them are illegal immigrants, since illegals can neither work nor receive government benefits.  They can become petit-bourgeoisie overnight, however, and quickly set up their own little businesses selling water, roses, or miniature Eiffel Towers.  Alas, these small businesses are also illegal and every now and then you’ll see the police give them a chase.

The throng of people behind me are also taking
out-of-focus pictures of Da Vinci's masterpiece.
8.  Everyone I know in the world has a double here in Paris, including celebrities.  There is one difference.  For all the guys I know, your Parisian double is slimmer and probably better dressed.  Except for Keanu Reeves… I think that really was Keanu Reeves that walked past the other day.

9.  It continues to be surprising to me that the Parisian streets are not filled with the blood of pedestrians.  About one in 3 Parisian cars have some sort of damage to the fenders due to their aggressive/careless driving.  I’ve been a passenger in one and witness in another fender bender both on the same day.  Somehow, while every pedestrian walklight in Paris seems to be ignored, with cars zooming past pedestrians giving only inches to spare, I have not seen so much as a raised voice from a near miss.

10.  It’s probably not surprising to you that every grocery store in Paris is equipped with a fully stocked cheese section.  I’ve been eating various varieties of camembert, brie and other cheeses that I can’t even name, though I recognize them by the package. You could say that I have a personal relationship with cheeses.  That said, this week’s amazing discovery had got to be crème de camembert… or as I have dubbed it “spreadable heaven”.

With love and best wishes,

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