Friday, February 29, 2008
Well, I'm here to tell you that it's not as bad as you imagine, and not nearly as bad as what everyone tells you. For example, I went to a movie the other day. The ticket cost 7.50 euro, which is roughly 11 dollars and some change. Now, for someone living in certain parts of the US (Minnesota, for example), 11 dollars might seem a bit high. But I live in DC now, where I pay 10 dollars to see a flick at the nothing special Ballston Commons Theater. New Yorkers pay even more, as, I'm sure, do movie goers in other areas. I'm in Paris. Paying one dollar more than usual doesn't seem like such a bad deal. The same is true for other items I've purchased -the prices didn't shock me one bit.
Of course, a nice dinner out might run you a bit high, and you can certainly find expensive items here, but that's really true of anywhere. If you're creative, look for deals like happy hours (they do exist in Paris!), reasonably priced prix fixe dinners, search for good prices at clothing stores, and buy picnic lunches at one of the many Parisian markets, the dollar doesn't seem so pathetic. Maybe I'm living in a fantasy world. After all, I don't have to rent a hotel or take every meal out like most tourists will have to do; those are expensive propositions. I guess I just feel that with a little effort - kind of like the one made by college students all over the world - you can live well without breaking the bank in Paris.
Then again, I just heard that the euro reached another high against the dollar...
Thursday, February 28, 2008
What you don't see are big cars. The biggest I've seen have been the occasional minivan, and even that is quite rare. But it is unbelievably refreshing to not have to look at a single enormous pickup truck, Escalade, or, heaven forbid, a Hummer. I wonder though: would French people buy such monstrosities if it gas were cheaper, the roadways were wider, and ample parking space was easier to come by? Maybe. In the meantime, small cars will continue to rule the streets of Paris, and I will continue to admire them.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
I left my apartment Monday night and headed for the bridge that takes me to the Pont de Sèvres metro stop. As I turned out of the stairs that connect Rue Brancas with Grande Rue, I thought I caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, all lit up, and looking as awe-inspiring as the first time I saw it nearly six and half years ago. At first, I didn't believe my eyes. I had already taken that route more than a dozen times since arriving in Paris and I had never seen the Eiffel Tower peeking out from behind the buildings like that. As I neared the bridge, I kept trying to see it again, and finally, I did. This time, there was no mistaking it.
I know it's a bit of a cliché, and I've already seen it multiple times before, but I still had to struggle to suppress the urge to scream and jump up and down out of excitement! I mean, it's the
Later that night, I got to see it at the top of the hour, which is when the tour sheds its regular lighting in favor of hundreds of bright white lights that sparkle like diamonds. This time, I didn't hold back my delight.
Monday, February 25, 2008
This particular street is called "Grande Rue." Seriously. For those not familiar with French, Grande Rue literally means "Big Street." I love that the big street is actually called Big Street. It's succinct, unpretentious, and rather descriptive. I wondered if this was a common occurrence in France. Were other street names as obvious as this one? Is there a "Petitie Rue" out there somewhere? As it turns out, the French are just as baffled by this choice in street name as I am. While giving me a ride home from central Paris, a French friend did a double take as I was giving directions to my apartment. "Grande Rue? Can you be more specific?" No, actually, I can't!
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
There was no such ban during my first trip to France in the fall of 2001. Bars were smoky, cafés were worse, and I even watched in disbelief as clients brought cigarettes into such public places as shopping malls. Of course, I was a bit younger then and better able to tolerate such unpleasantries as a second-hand smoker's cough. Age and the simple fact of living in non-smoking environments (DC went smoke-free too!) have made me terribly conscious of cigarette smoke. Needless to say, France's smoking ban came just in the knick of time.
As for my Thursday night out, the sangria was delicious, the company was delightful, and I left with nary a wisp of smoke in my freshly-washed hair.
Friday, February 22, 2008
Thursday, February 21, 2008
In between admiring the picture-perfect produce, seemingly endless chocolate aisle, and many-bottles-less-than-four-euros wine collection, I did something that, for most Americans, is slightly horrifying: I bought a room-temperature bottle of milk off the shelf. It was not in a cooler, not behind a door in a refrigerator, it was on the shelf in the same way that the cereal and the pasta are on the shelf. In the States, milk is always kept cold, unless it's condensed milk, but that is only for baking and would never be poured over cereal or used as a refreshing beverage. We're trained to associate warm milk with spoiled milk. I've never understood why the milk can be kept on the shelf here without going bad, but I did notice on the bottle that it is supposed to be refrigerated after opening. I for one will be making absolutely sure that the milk is fully chilled before enjoying a glass with my gateau au chocolat.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
As a graduate student on exchange for one semester, I have but four months to take in all that Paris has to offer. Luckily, this city provides a virtually endless supply of sensory delights as well as bureaucratic hurdles. My time here will most certainly be filled with a variety of mishaps, triumphs, and reflections ripe for the sharing. If you've ever been to France, live here now, or simply dream of visiting, I hope you will enjoy reading Parisian Spring.