Random Musings from Paris!
Sometimes French People are Nice
Wednesday, June 16, 2010,10:57 AM
It's quite unfortunate, but the French people have managed to gain an international reputation for being rude and snobby. It's true what they say - French people don't know how to smile. I'm pretty convinced of this because every smile I see in France either seems forced or the result of saying "fromage" one too many times. People never smile at you on the street and it must be forbidden on the subway. The other day, I gave up my seat for some poor pregnant woman and she didn't even acknowledge my act of kindness. No appreciative glance. No word of thanks. Not even a little twitch of the corners of her mouth. Normally I'd let it slide because being pregnant can't be any fun, and it must be the most horrible 9 months of anyone's life, but this time it bothered me. Probably because I ran into such nice people that day.
First, I didn't have a metro ticket, and as I was walking up to the window to buy one, a woman walking out of the subway turned to me and said "oh here, let me just slide my Navigo for you." My jaw dropped. I'm pretty sure that my mind completely blanked for a few minutes. I couldn't believe what was going on. I murmured a word of thanks as I replayed the scenario through my head. It's so shocking to receive such generosity from a people who don't believe it to be necessary to say sorry when they crush your toes with their stilettos on the subway. I considered myself immensely lucky.
Later on that day, I stopped at a patisserie near school for my daily dessert fix. I walked in and asked for a marvelous looking green tea mille-feuille and the woman working there decided to give me some complimentary green tea chocolate as well as a free hazelnut macaron! It was the most amazing gesture ever! Standard macarons cost 2 euros a piece here, and chocolate is no less pricey. And French people NEVER just give you things for free! I was pretty convinced that it was the best day ever. So I guess not being thanked by a pregnant woman isn't the end of the world afterall.
Parisans apparently dont know much about the US.
Thursday, June 3, 2010,12:52 PM
French ignorance to all things American is really very annoying. The other day I was talking to Muriel about traveling, and she mentions that she loves Americans because "vous etes les grands enfants." I didn't take offense to it because I was convinced that she meant it in a very flattering way.
I asked her if she's been to the US before, and she said that she went to San Fransisco and she enjoyed it IMMENSELY. She liked how chill everyone was - like they were just enjoying life. I told her San Fran was great, but that I also really enjoyed my time in Manhattan last summer. She said that her daughter went to Manhattan and found it very pretentious - more so than Paris!?!? ... come on. I said that I lived in Soho, which was near the West Village which was much more chill than it was uptown.
Her next question caught me completely offguard.
"well that makes sense, aren't San Fransisco and New York really close to each other?"
My mind couldn't even handle the ridiculousness of the question. How could ANYONE think that? There's a BIG HUGE USA in between the two! But I tried to tell her nicely that they were VERY far apart. SO FAR that they bordered different OCEANS.
Maybe I'm an ignorant American and think that its necessary for everyone to know american geography. But to be fair I know quite a bit about France. I know that Normandy & Brittany are in the north, that Marseilles & Nice are in the South. That Saint-Tropez is along the Meditteranean. So how is it possible for people in France NOT TO KNOW that San Fransisco and New York are on opposite sides of the country!?
Maybe it's this whole French Pride business that they feel like they don't need to know anything about the US because France is so great and wonderful. Just like how French people are very much okay with the fact that they can't speak or understand any English.
But honestly, they should look at a map so they don't come off as just plain dumb.
Europeans are more mature?
Sunday, May 30, 2010,1:50 PM
The idea of independence is something that is truly valued by the French. My host mom was telling me how she admired Carla Bruni (yeah, ew, I know) because Carla is an independent woman. Muriel made her sound like she's using the president to gain "le pouvoir". She made it a point to tell me that Carla doesn't live with Sarko. Instead she makes him drive her home every night. Muriel has a lot of respect for Carla because she "worked her way up".
I think she just likes Carla because she thinks she has a personal connection with her. Turns out Muriel's daughter and Carla were both finalists to be the face of a Davidoff ad and in the end they chose Muriel's daughter instead of Carla. Funny thing is, Muriel's daughter isn't such a big fan of Carla. Maybe because she was competition...
However, the idea of independence seems to be taught and practiced early in the French culture. Here in France I've met 11 year olds who seem more mature than 30 somethings that I know. Maybe it's part of this whole pride thing. People seem to learn independence at a very very young age here. Maybe it's for the best, but I think they're just throwing their childhood away.
There's a time to grow up, and it's not at 11 years of age.
American in Paris: CUPCAKES!
Tuesday, May 18, 2010,2:28 PM
The other day I was doing a little derive in the Marais, and decided for once that I was going to follow my nose. That's right, I was going to go in the direction in which it smells best. Yes. Like a dog. My senses led me to a bakery, a restaurant, another restaurant, another bakery, a perfumerie, a park, and lastly - A CUPCAKE SHOP.
That's right, my nose led me to one of the Marais BEST hidden secrets. Berko is probably the closest thing to a Magnolia's I've been able to find in Paris, and what a find it was! I was first awestruck by the AMAZING cakes they had in the window. I thought it was a wedding cake shop upon first impression. Then my eyes wandered off to the blur of cerulean, bubblegum, and daffodil dots under the glass display. Upon closer inspection the multi-colored specks were actually tiny little cupcakes!! They reminded me of my all time FAVORITE bite-sized cupcakes that I would get all the time last summer at Baked by Melissa in Soho.
My mouth started watering, I've been yearning for a perfectly moist cupcake with frosting as light as air ever since I got here. That's one thing I really miss about the US - well actually just Manhattan - the multitude of cupcake shops and fro-yo stands. They do have Myberry in the Marais, but it's a total rip-off of Pinkberry and infinitely worse. They have no business charging 6 euro for that shit.
As I scanned the flavor options, my heart stopped as I read two words. RED VELVET. It's like they knew I was coming. It's like they knew that red velvet cupcakes are my ALL TIME favorite cupcake. I looked under the glass display to see if they had any left and all the way at the end I spotted a single lonely tiny red cupcake with fluffy white frosting and sparkling red sprinkles. There was no way I was just going to leave it there. It would have felt left out because all it's cupcake friends were gone. But maybe it was just waiting for me. It was love at first sight. I happy bought my tiny little cupcake and ate it on the tiny table in front of the bakery.
As I bit into the creamy frosting and the ultra moist cake - I knew this was well worth my investment. Maybe it's because I havent had a good cupcake in some time, but I would say that this little red velvet is almost on par with the red velvet at Magnolias. But just my opinion - I will definitely be heading back for others.
Labor Day Parade?
Monday, May 10, 2010,2:10 PM
On a day just like any other, I was making my way from St. Michel to my apartment in the 11th via my bike, Jane Avril (yes, I named my bike). Everything seemed to be going according to plan until I discovered that ALL the streets leading into the round-about at Republique were CLOSED.
(I think they need to give fair warning to drivers / bikers when they pull shit like this because it took me a hell of a long time to get back as I had to blindly wander around little streets until I found Voltaire.)
But when I walked back down to Republique to see what all the commotion was about, I was pleasantly surprised and entertained to see a large gathering of what seemed to be hardcore communists complete with hammer and sickle flags and authentic communist hats. It's great that communists can congregate like this without having 400 armed policemen surrounding the premises. I think the French are much more politically tolerant than Americans - one utter of the term communists would throw politicians into a frenzy conjuring up unpleasant memories of McCarthyism and the "red scare".
God. Americans, get over yourselves.
This parade was awesome, I saw a little five-year-old running around waving a huge communist flag. It was one of the highlights of that weekend. But I wasn't quick enough for a picture.
Later I realized that essentially EVERY political party in France had a group marching in this parade. Socialists, republicans, fascists alike marched in the same parade. Political posters and flyers were everywhere, you'd think it was election day or something!
Labels: may day
Biking is So Much Better
Sunday, May 2, 2010,12:25 PM
Americans spend most of their lives cramped up in a small compact vehicle.
I think about the amount of my life I must waste on getting places and I realize that usually entails getting into a car and jamming out to music until I reach my final destination. But that means that I spend most of my life sitting in a tiny space - usually by myself. Let's think about that for a minute - if I do indeed spend a good chunk of my time on transportation, then wouldn't it be great if I could actually get something out of the trip itself? The idea of going from bed to car (or subway) to office back to car just makes me cringe. How much lazier can one be?
Okay I'm aware of the fact that cars are much faster than bikes - but seriously we spend our whole lives sitting. Think of how many years we can add to our life expectancy if we actually exercised!?
Hence, I am a huge proponent of the bicycle. Especially for cities. For example, let's consider New York, Paris, or even Hong Kong. I think we can all agree that driving in any of these cities would be an utter nightmare. The cars are pushy, there are motos everywhere, they often have random road closings/demonstrations, there's no place to park your car, and if you do find parking it costs an arm and a leg.
But a 40 minute bike ride can get you from one end of the city to the other. I don't believe that driving would save that much time. City congestion is every suburban driver's nightmare. Plus you look SO MUCH COOLER on a bike! Don't believe me? Well... let's do an experiment:
Who looks cooler
Yeah. I thought so. Plus Parisians seem to have biking etiquette down to an art.
Face it, a nice and light bike is a million times cooler than a huge hunk of metal with fat tires. Only ignorant folk would choose such a wasteful means of transportation as driving.
Vintage in Paris
Thursday, April 29, 2010,11:27 AM
Vintage shopping is the BEST.
I always hate it when I buy something and then see someone else wearing the exact same thing on the street. That happens quite often here since I buy the bulk of my clothes from H&M (alas, a college student budget doesn't buy you much else). Well thrift-ing is a sure-fire way to find those pieces that NOBODY else has.
I did a little derive today, going left then right, then left again. I think I did this several times without finding anything interesting, but it finally led me to a vintage store in the 11th called Come On Eileen. It wasn't just ANY vintage store, it was a 3-floor vintage-lover's dream! Walls were crammed with vintage pieces - and if you search, you can even find Chanel, Dior & Lanvin on the racks (very expensive, of course). My favorite is their collection of vintage glasses & frames - as a lover of nerdy glasses, its not surprising that I went there first.
But this derive got me thinking:Vintage shopping is not always Thrifting
Yes. It seems absurd to pay more for a worn Chanel 2.55 from the 70s than a brand new one, but it's about getting that one-of-a-kind piece. Today's society has an obsession with the new, but the new can be reproduced and mass-distributed. Vintage shopping is all about an appreciation for the unique and the past. What's more, its about making the past relevant today.
In Paris, I've witnessed that that buying vintage is much more about getting that unique item than it is about price. It's relatively difficult to find a vintage store in Paris that only sells items under 40 or 50 euros. Yet when you go back to the States, it seems absurd that a vintage store will charge 300 dollars on a used leather jacket.
I think the dig is also a bit disconcerting - you walk into a tiny room with all walls covered in racks of clothing that are packed so tightly you can barely get them out. But when you find that special number, you feel like your search was more than worth it!