June 20, 2008

bienvenue a paris

Huh. Interesting.

I read all the comments on here, and love them. It's interesting that the last post was the first one where I got something from someone who I don't know - or don't know that I know - and the person is being snarky. What's the point, random reader?

For the record, I do not, unfortunately, love every second of every place I visit. Sometimes I get to places that I don't like that much or go see things that don't meet up to the hype. It happens, fortunately not very often, but that's how it goes. Good with the bad, but I am not going to lie and profess amazement and wonder at every little thing I see.

Anyhow, I am in Paris, and I DO have wonder and love for this place. It's unintentional, but really lucky that I gave into the self-indulgent urge to come to Paris on my way home. In this entire trip, I haven't been to anywhere that I had ever been to before, so spending three days in Paris is like a halfway house. I have been before and gone to all of the museums and sights and know my way about relatively well, plus I (sort of, ish) speak the language, so a lot of the usual tasks and pressures and patterns from traveling don't apply. Besides wandering too and fro, there really isn't anything I need to get to in order to have a wonderful time in Paris. So in a way, I don't feel like I am really traveling anymore. But at the same time, I definitely am not home, with all that entails. I haven't talked about it much - though I will coming up, I am certain - but being home will give rise to a whole different set of observations, complications, joys and issues. So I get to ease into that some here.

As I was riding the train from Orly into town, I glimpsed a pretty, ornate white building, and I had a flash of wonder. That building was beautiful, but it could have been in Bangkok or Buenos Aires, or certainly Scandinavia. I wondered how Paris would hold up, coming from so many new and pretty places. Would it be as impressive?

Well, fortunately, Paris knows how to tart herself up. This city works it, with the lighting on the bridges and the buildings just so, with the antiquey signage and the atmospheric quais along the Seine. It knows good marketing, and this is still one of the most charming and lovely cities I have ever been to. It doen't hurt that my hostel is about a half a cobblestone street from the river and the Ile St Louis, and that the weather is nice and I have "wander" as first and last on my agenda, but still. I know it's such a cliche, but I do adore Paris.

I haven't been in years, and in some ways the city has changed a lot. I notice the effects of the huge influx of immigrants, and there is the inflation and increased international attitudes that I am sure have a lot to do with the EU. But on the other hand, I have gone looking for places I went to when I lived here for a summer, and my insticts just kicked in. I know when to turn, I recognize buildings, and nearly everything is just where I left it. I had dinner last night at a Tibetan place that I remembered vividly, and still liked it, and went shopping today at my favorite papeterie for new pens. I sat by the Seine and watched boats go by and drank excellent supermarket wine last night, and found the best creperie this block for nutella banana crepes. It's nice that some things don't change, and wait for me instead.

I notice how much English is everywhere, from a solid 75% of the people I pass - it is Paris in June after all - but I also don't remember there being so much English from the shopkeepers and restaurant staff. In some ways it's handy - after years disuse, my French speaking abilities are really, really bad. I can read everything perfectly, I can understand nearly everything, but speaking... not so good. I try, and they switch to English. I need to practice. But this is also new, and I wonder if it will put an end to the "rude Parisian" myth.

I go to London tomorrow, and it will be interesting to see. I have even less on the agenda for there, and have been more recently, so we will see where it falls on the travel scale this time.


Gina said...

Clearly your anonymous heckler has never met you! It's not sour, sir, it's witty, snarky, acidic or wry. But not sour. And if it were, I highly doubt it would be shoe-related. :)

Gina said...

PS It's cool you have a heckler, though. I think you've "made it" in some respects as a blogger.

ScienceMama said...

Um, is unuse a word?

annie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tarn said...

When I studied in France 10(!) years ago, a lot of the locals did that thing where I would speak French to them and then they would start speaking English as soon as they heard my accent. I thought it was sort of a "reverse rudeness," as in "Ugh, your French is so bad that I may as well speak English to you." I was like "At least I'm trying! Let me try dammit! I mean 's'il vous plait!'" But I'm glad that you view it as a positive thing, rather than getting all defensive and pissy like I did. :)