Sunday, May 8, 2011

Settling into the City

Ahhh, Nespresso by the Seine.
Bonjour and welcome my friends,

The past two weeks have been as interesting as any others.  As my time here in Paris rolls on, I am getting closer and closer to citizenship… using my loose definition of citizenship.  I have a working bank card, a telephone contract, and other such things as one needs to function as a permanent resident of a place.  I have a few pieces of paperwork to go, and the quest to complete those things will make up my next instalment.

In the mean time, please enjoy this recent set of Parisian observations:

  1. Paris has more than its share of great painters, particularly in the last couple of centuries.  Now, I think that I understand why.  Apart from the gajillion things to paint here, there is a sense that painting is as important a past time as cooking or exercising.  There are certainly more painting supply stores than there are gyms in Paris.  A recent sale at BHV (one of Paris’ leading department stores) features everything that a person needs to paint… save talent.  I’m very tempted to take up a brush, just to see what happens.

  2. Across the bridge (ou pont) from me is this very famous restaurant called the Tour d’Argent (, where I hope to dine one day soon.  The restaurant was founded in 1582, and was frequented by Henri IV.  It was also the inspiration for the restaurant “Gusteau's” featured in the movie “Ratatouille”, which is reason enough for a person to pay it a visit.  Dinner and drinks will set diners back about 200+ Euros per person, so I don’t expect to be eating there every day; however this exceptional price has not discouraged me from giving it a try.

  3. As if to mock my crappy Canon party camera (which I thought was a pretty good camera *before* I got to Paris), I see a great many people on the streets with expensive Canon SLR cameras.  They may in fact be the official camera of Paris.  Canon owners all have Canon camera straps and often other Canon accessories and they always appear to be doing a photo essay on one subject or another.  Until my budget frees up enough money for the best possible Canon of my own, jealousy dictates that I officially despise them.

  4. My trusty Kindle loaded with French classics.
  5. It is particularly enjoyable to read French literature while in Paris (except for maybe Proust), because you can actually go and see many of the places that the authors are writing about.  I’ve been reading Camus, Balzac, Zola, de Maupassant, Flaubert and even Proust.  My French friends tell me that they were forced to read these authors as kids, a time where I grew up on English and Canadian literature.  Now that I am an adult, however, I find these authors to be quite enjoyable (except for Proust).
  6. Paris is a big city and like any big city there are things here that you don’t want to see.  Street people reduced to begging because of their addictions are unpleasant to encounter.  They simultaneously confront us with a range of emotions from ambivalence to compassion to disgust and back again.  Surely, when all you want to do is get some milk and a fresh baguette, you might not want to think about all of these things.
    Now I’m speaking only of addicts and not of the more dignified of Paris’ homeless, some of whom might very well be Canadians saving up for a security deposit on an apartment.  The difference between Paris’ addict-class of homeless and the North American variety is that they still seem to have alcoholics here.  The abundance of inexpensive and delicious wine must be more appealing to the Parisian addict than the meth or crack used by their North American counterparts.

  7. Apartment hunting in Paris is like… nothing I have ever experienced.  Paris does not have the strict tenant protections that most North American renters enjoy and landlords can change the rent they are asking or the security deposit at a whim, depending on what they think of you… personally… as a renter.  This week’s search for a permanent apartment failed when at signing the landlord asked for an additional 2 months security deposit and that this be paid at signing.  The deal ended since, for whatever reason, I didn’t have an additional 6,000 Euros in my pocket at the time.

  8. In the past two weeks I haven’t spotted a single vampire.  Is there a convention somewhere?  If anyone knows anything, please leave a comment.  I’m concerned that there is something evil afoot.

  9. I don’t know if this is a true, but I have heard that the French use less soap per capita than any other industrialized nation.  While I don’t believe that I’ve encountered more body odour here than anywhere else, I believe this may be a fact.  Soap is expensive here!  Gone are the Costco-sized quantities of body soap that used to fill the cupboard under my sink.  Now I use each precious dollop of soap like it’s my last.

  10. I have finally managed to get to the Orsay museum ( ).  For something to be incredible is one thing, but for it to be incredible when it is within walking distance of the Louvre is quite another.   Monet, Manet, Degas, Lautrec, Van Gogh, Seurat, Pissarro, Gauguin, and Renoir were all there, to name a few.  But all in one day?  It was really too much.  In contrast with the Louvre, the Orsay tends to light its paintings more subtly, making close inspection more achievable.  One can not only better enjoy a painting this way, but actually observe how it might have been painted (note observation #1).

    The Musee d'Orsay as seen from the Louvre.

  11. I don’t know if this is a word, but I have been a victim of shirtrition.  This is where one’s shirts simply give up the ghost and either the collar or the sleeve at the armpit unexpectedly tears and renders the garment into rags.  The upside of shirtrition is that I’ve been buying replacement shirts in Paris, and oooooooh!  There are vendors called chemiserie’s who sell nothing but shirts.  They are the cure for shirtrition and some of these replacement shirts I’ve picked up are truly brilliant!

Thank you for reading, my most excellent friends and take care until next time!


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