Archive for February, 2012

Observations About Paris

Posted on: February 10th, 2012 by gretchen 2 Comments

Now I’m in Paris.  Living in a lovely building that reeks of the cigarettes of every neighbor.

 

Front of our apartment

 

Paris makes me use the internet more.  This happened last time we were here.  I was on Friendster quite a bit.   Now I want to actually write about my experiences and observations about this place.  Perhaps that’s what is meant by “blog.”  I’ve always been afraid of that concept and word, but now I’m just going for it.

 

Kitchen table view

 

I don’t actually think that this is the most beautiful city in the world or anything.  It’s just not quite my style.  I like the ruins of Rome, how every building looks like it’s faux finished and then I’m like, oh yeah, this is what faux finish is based on.  I like that more than this orderly wrought iron.  That said, there are a lot of great things here.  I am definitely at a disadvantage because I don’t speak French, but whose fault is that?  I should have bothered to learn more.  Anyway, I spend all day exploring and here are some of the things I’ve noticed.

- There’s a subway car (Metro) pretty much every 3 minutes.  They aren’t long cars but they are very frequent.  It’s so nice to never really wait.  I have a monthly pass that cost me something like $67.  Add 30% plus exchange rate and the 1% Visa attaches to everything and that adds up to be a pretty expensive card.  But it’s so pleasant and convenient and they sell hot pain au chocolate in the station.  Not suspicious churros covered in Saran Wrap.  No, hot fresh chocolate croissants right out of the oven.  Now that’s nice.

 

- Cheese, fennel, the most delicious mustard in the world and Belgian endive are soooooo cheap here. That fancy grey salt you pay so much for at Whole Foods?  Two euros for a big bag. But, for some reason, baking soda is pricey.

Maille mustard display

 

- Check-out lines are not fast.  These cashiers are not at all concerned with speed.  They are sitting down and they are taking their sweet time.  All of them.  Not sure what I think about that.

 

- It’s a big city full of uneven ground.  So you gotta look where you walk.  But you don’t want to look where you walk because the contents of every dog’s bowels and every phlegmatic’s lungs are on display on the sidewalk every two inches.  It is really gross.  Grosser than NYC, even.  Certainly way grosser than Austin.

 

Also right outside the front door

 

- The coffee here is merely adequate.  But the tea is divine.  They really have their tea down! Giant leaves that plump up so nicely in the basket and impart the freshest flavor.  And for not a lot of money.  London is such a teabag town.  Paris is fantastic loose tea at a reasonable price.

 

- They have really cute little cars.  They even have electric cars that are somehow for rent on the street.  Like I said, I don’t understand French.  But they’ve got MG Midgets (which are so tiny) and other adorable foreign vehicles that are interesting and small.  And lots of cool motorcycles with giant windshields that come with a blanket to spread out on your lap.  As well as this citywide commuter bike rental thing where you put in a bankcard and you can unlock a cool looking bike that’s free for the first 30 minutes.  But the stinky car exhaust smell is a lot worse now than it was when we were here eight years ago.

 

Gorgeousness abounds

 

- OMG, the stationary stores!  Can we talk?!  They love their paper and their envelopes and their fountain pens here.  I never get tired of looking at the gorgeous assortment available on practically every city block.  They have tons of these envelopes I’m in love with that you just can’t get back in the States.  At least, I can never find them.  And they’re 70 cents here.  They have fountain pens, real fountain pens (plume) for 3 euros!  And the best paper for writing on with a fountain pen.  It’s such a pleasure.  In addition to using the internet a lot, I’ve been writing and drawing a lot, too.  If only Austin had just one of these stores.  They have so many of them here.  Surely Paris could spare one Gibert Jeune.

 

-Style-wise things have really changed since we lived here eight years ago.  The ladies have, thankfully, loosened up.  Lots more grey hair, so I don’t stand out as much.  And fewer bows on everything.  Jesus, it was so hard to just find a regular girl to look at last time.  The French women just appeared hyper feminine in a way that was too frou-frou to be interesting to me.  Now they just look normal.  Good even.

 

- I was walking down this garment district street the other day and right there in the middle of the day I passed three prostitutes just standing outside of shops.  I was thrown off by the first one, she had on a fur coat and some fishnets and her leg was being displayed provocatively and I really didn’t know what to make of her.  Was there just some pretty, rich lady who’d gotten lost in this district and was waiting for her ride to show up with more of her clothes or something?  Then I passed another woman who was just standing outside of a shop displaying leg.  And when I passed the third one I realized what was going on.  If these women had been playing Parisian prostitutes in a movie you would have said it was too cliché and unbelievable.  And no one was paying any attention to them.  It was amazing.

 

These are my observations thus far.  It’s literally freezing here and I bought new boots that squeeze my feet to death.  But still, I’m out there pounding the pavement every day to soak up all that Paris has to offer that I can take.  I will, perhaps, keep you posted.

 

Eiffel tower at sunset