Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Some Thoughts on Paris

A few pictures and some thoughts. We visited the list of places you'd expect and none were a disappointment. We had flawless weather and our flat was fine.

We don't eat expensive food, so it was mostly crepes, omelets and a few fish dinners (It wasn't about the food). Lots of wine though. Rose especially.

Since we had an apartment, we ate at home a lot.
But semi-prepared food as Phil needed a break, plus we had four flights to walk up with groceries.

Our flat was in The Marais, an excellent location that I highly recommend. If you ever decide to go I will give you the email address of the proprietor.

What we enjoyed most was people watching-going to the parks, the festivals, watching the throngs at Notre Dame. Several visits to bookstores, four to movies (Marathon Man, The Lady Vanishes, Fallen Angel and Young and Innocent) and two classical music concerts. And art, of course, but not the larger galleries except for the Pompidou and the Rodin.

Oh, and lots of gardens.

Underground, the Paris Metro is the most well-organized transportation system I know of. Every station and every car on the trains have maps and easy- to- read ones. Above ground, it's a free- for -all with motorcycles, bikes, cars and pedestrians fighting for turf. Paris drivers are the most aggressive I've seen--working on the theory that he who hesitates loses the game. They are the most skilled parkers I've seen also. Woe to the pedestrian who blocks a parking spot even momentarily.

When I was last in Paris (1995), all the women wore scarves. Now many men do too. Somehow they pull it off although my husband would disagree.

How can the French be so good at art, fashion, literature but so poor at plumbing, heating electricity?

Styles in men's sports coats: short, tight, with narrow lapels. Like the early sixties. The jackets pull across the waist.

Styles in women's shoes-they wind up the leg with laces, straps, something. They are complicated. Every boutique seem to carry its own line of exciting and expensive clothing. I have never seen so many different shoes or dresses. I bought an inexpensive scarf and a necklace, two books and a few souvenirs. (It wasn't about shopping either). The French also have many toy and kid's clothing stores with one of a kind things.

The French seem to have more surnames than a single nationality should have. At the cemetery I saw almost no repeats of names.

Everyone under thirty seems to smoke. They may not smoke inside restaurants but they certainly do at the cafe tables. There must be a hundred thousand cafe tables in Paris and there is someone at almost everyone of them. They always face the street rather than each other.

There are more good American movies on the screens in France than in the U.S. That's because there are film festivals of every significant director and actor. Just a few; Cohn Brothers, Hitchcock, Audrey Hepburn, Al Pacino, Billy Wilder, Otto Preminger, John Houston, Noir.

This was just over a two-week period.

The bookstores in France were just as empty as the bookstores in my neighborhood.

Paris is vastly more multi-cultural than on our last visit, but not as multi-cultural as London by a long shot.

Our flat was next to a school. Their school day is longer, but they seem to have numerous noisy breaks.

You can easily survive in France speaking no English. I am a testament to that, having never managed more than Merci and Bonjour and those in a horrible accent. People born in Philadelphia can never excise their nasal twang.

No one was ever rude to us. Hope I didn't bore you!


Anonymous said...

Great recap, Patti, and glad you guys enjoyed the trip.

I was somewhat surprised to see the 'empty bookstores' line, but not at all surprised about the smoking.

When we were last in Paris (it's been a long time) we most liked to just walk. It's still a beautiful city and it's made for walkers.

It certainly isn't made for driving, as you pointed out. On our first trip (in 1972) we rented a car but 'Rene' had to drive us from the office in central Paris out to the airport to pick it up. I should have started worrying when he pulled his racing gloves on. Mon dieu! By the time he got from mid-block to the corner he was in third and didn't slow at all as he swerved onto the main drag. My friend and I were in the back hiding under the seat.

Favorite Paris Metro scene was Audrey Hepburn being chased by Cary Grant (who she thinks is a murderer) in Charade.

Jeff M.

Jerry House said...

When I was editing a magazine for a major high-tech company, I had to write an article on our Paris training facility. Of the hundreds of photographs of the facility we had on file, every one of them included at least one person smoking a cigarette. Every flipping one! Air brushing was my friend that week.

Paul D Brazill said...
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Paul D Brazill said...

Last time I was in Paris I went for breakfast in a cafe, coddling a stinking hangover ,and was sat at a table by a group of clowns and a beautiful Hungarian trapeze artist. It was 'one of those Paris moments'.But it freaked me out a bit at the time!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes, the speed of cars was very intimidating. Thanks goodness they have traffic lights on almost every corner and they don't have the volume of cars that US cities do.
The smoking is really oppressive on streets with a lot of cafes. And cleaning it up must be something--they seem to clean the streets every morning!
Clowns scare me in any situation.

YA Sleuth said...

Thanks for sharing! Beautiful photos and recap. Sounds like it was a good break.

George said...
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George said...

When I was in France in 2003, everyone smoked. It was shocking. The trains had "No Smoking" cars, but they were always full. Since I work in a smoke-free building and eat in smoke-free restaurants, and all my friends are smoke-free, going back to a time when everyone is chain-smoking was a jolt.

Todd Mason said...

" poor at plumbing, heating electricity?"

Isn't this an old city thing, prevalent particularly in European capitals? (and perhaps most old cities around the world?)

You can get by with no Francais, you mean? I suspect you're more concious of your Sound of Philadelphia than others are (I remember the Eastern European diplomatic-instructions comment that suggested that Americans and Australians often sound alike)..and that the Parisans are more likely to react negatively to the sound of a Nice accent than your attempts to not butcher Je ne parlez-pas Francais...did the bookstores feature many English-language titles?

pattinase (abbott) said...

I think it may be a European thing perhaps. All the appliances, perhaps to save space, are odd-too small and too complicated. No central hearing. No screens which drive me crazy because I was warned not to leave windows open too wise or pigeons would fly in.
There were several English language bookstores which were excellent. The others carried very little in English from what I saw. A few seemed to carry a mix.
You've never heard me speak English let alone French. After living in Detroit for 40 years, people still ask me if I am from Philly. Never my husband though.

Anonymous said...

Patti - Thanks for those beautiful 'photos and your thoughts on visiting Paris. I'm so glad you had a good visit, and I'm not at all surprised at the good films, exciting clothes and terrific people-watching opportunities. It sounds like you had a lot of fun, and I'm glad. I think what I find most interesting is the different attitude towards smoking. I'm not sure what it is about the culture there that promotes smoking, but I find that fascinating.

Charles Gramlich said...

It all sounds pretty wonderful except for the plumbing, the empty bookstores, and the scarves. I've personaly always hated scarves. they seem to make anyone who wears it age by 30 years, to me.

pattinase (abbott) said...

It was mostly the young smoking--but not totally.
That's an interesting observation, Charles. The men wearing scarves were young. The women, all ages.

Hannah Stoneham said...

Lovely photos and recap - so glad that you enjoyed! i am going into Paris on Monday to visit the Museum of Modern Art with a friend... I will report back!

pattinase (abbott) said...

Hannah-I'd be very curious to hear what you think about Lucien Freud. I always find him enigmatic. Is he about more than the corporeality of man? What does he find so fascinating in flesh?
Try to avoid the room with the woman spinning a hula hoop of barbed wire around her middle. I have seen it twice now and that is two times more than I needed.

le0pard13 said...

"Paris drivers are the most aggressive I've seen--working on the theory that he who hesitates loses the game."

I guess that explains director Claude Lelouch's 1978 jaunt through Paris. Great pictures and reflections of your trip, Patti. Thanks for sharing.

Richard R. said...

Wonderful! Thanks! Wish we could get more...

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Glad you had a good time. Too bad about the bookstores.


Juri said...

Seems like the French guys dress like the men in Finland! :)