Since I haven’t written for a while, here’s to a double post! My friend Eric was asking for some Paris observations and this comes right out of my answer to him. I have been making some more observations since then and included them randomly (they are probably the lighter-hearted ones, when I was writing to Eric I was in a pretty bad humor) so sit back and pretend to be in Paris!
1. Parisians are obsessed with baguettes. I mentioned it before, in my Belleville post, but I thought it was only on Saturday/market days that they walk around with baguettes. Ohh no. On their way to work, from work, to see friends, in their lunch break, from the grocery store where they got a jar of Nutella – they carry a baguette everywhere. I can understand that the quality here of baguette is really hard to resist, and I have not yet gotten enough of them, but you would think that after a lifetime living here you’d kind of become accustomed to white bread, wouldn’t you? Maybe it’s addictive and gets worse as time goes by? In that case I will have to be very, very careful…
2. In that vein – okay, you know the whole spiel of “why do French people stay so thin with all the good food they have" and the answer is some weird red-wine-plus-mediterranean-food explanation? Forget about it. They stay thin because they don’t eat. I mean, yes, they have baguette, the occasional cheese and chocolate exuberance and all – but from what I have seen here, the Parisian at least eats very sparingly, has little time to cook, and prefers just to sit for a very long time with a bottle of red wine and a couple of grapes and corners of cheese to nibble on. As a foodie, I feel extremely awkward when it comes to the question “tu as faim?” – are you hungry?, because of course, I am always hungry. But that is not Parisian. At. All.
3. It's funny how Parisian nightlife is influenced by public transport systems. Since taxis are soo expensive, most people rely on the metro and/or buses to get home. Though there are night buses (occasionally) and the infamous Velib (the original BIXI), most people decide that since the metro only opens at 5h30, you'll just stay out and party until 5h30. I personally have gone the sporty way and taken the Velib plenty of times up the steep Rue de Belleville, but heard of loads of my friends just coming home around 6am or 6.30. The rest of the day is then of course lost, at least until the next evening where the same thing starts all over... Interesting concept.
4. Parisian traffic is friggin insane, especially (inexplicably) around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. Wait, not inexplicably. That's Parisian rush hour for you. I really think so, cuz last time I tried to bike back, I nearly got hit by cars/buses/bikes/vespas like 5 times and it took me soo much time just because of all the red lights and detours. The really ironic thing is that in order to alleviate traffic in the city, the Mayor's office decided to make nearly all streets one-way to deter people from even taking their car. Just, although many streets are theoretically free in both directions for bikes, once they are really small and there are cars parked on the side too, biking up the wrong way is pretty much a kamikaze action. But at least you get your daily kick of adrenalin totally free and with a healthy inhalation of car fumes! No, kidding, biking around the city is normally a hell of a lot of fun just because you get to see so much history in front of your eyes! just the pedestrians get annoying. especially all the tourists. *parisian sigh*
5. The best music you will get to hear for free is often going to be in the metro. Until now, I've discovered this 10-head-Russian big band (they all sing, and play the guitar, clarinet, and a bunch of other instruments that I can't remember) that sings traditional Russian and Kletzmer music,
then there is the string orchestra, the flamenco guitarist, the piano player that set up his concert piano in front of the St. Germain metro exit, the Jamaican drummers, and last but not least the 20-head Spanish band that sang and played guitar and serenaded me two days ago (it was too funny, I just walked down to the metro with them when one of them offered me a seat, talked to me in Spanish and made his companions sing a song for me. Cuute!). There are also the more...amateur people that come into your metro train, sing a phrase or two from Edith Piaf and then walk around your already pretty stuffed wagon asking for tips. But at least they have guts.
6. Apparently the weather is going to be pretty grey-cloudy during the fall and winter months. Good for cookie baking (and galette baking. Nectarine-raspberry galette. Hmmm:
Not good for jogging. As I discovered today. I'll go tomorrow. Most probably.
7. Parisians can be really nice, but can also be as snotty as their reputation. Especially Parisian bank clerks. Seriously, my bank has screwed up more times than I could even count. I've been trying to get back at them by boycotting giving them the stupid unnecessary documents which I always assume that they will forget, but they never do, leaving me in a Catch 22 situation which I can't resolve without giving in to the bank clerk I’m having a duel to death with. What a dilemma.