Paris, you’re so vain

Two days spent in Paris do not make for an accurate reading of how I will be treated and what I can expect when interacting with les Parisiens. First, It’s only been two days. Second, I’ve been staying in hotels and a touristy area where you wouldn’t expect to get a taste of what Paris is really like. But I have been to the grocery store, bought a sanduiche at a boulangerie and ate at a Thai food restaurant all without issues. I actually really prefer the way workers treat you here- they don’t hover and aren’t overly attentive[read: Annoying See: Employees of Abercrombie, Starbucks, and most order-to-go places].

And that’s great news for me as I’m someone who takes 10 minutes to pick out a piece of fruit or decide on what type of tea to order. Here, the workers greet you courteously with a “bonjour” without a fake smile and just wait for you to approach them to ask them questions or to order. At first I felt like the two workers behind the counter would get annoyed at me as I did laps around the bakery trying to see what I would like best and spend my money on. But they just carried on a conversation amongst themselves until I went up to them to order. If I was in NYC, I would have a worker who continues to look up at me in anticipation and  asking me if I’m ready, even when I’m not holding up a line. Du calme!

But one thing I will say is that Parisians are so vain.

How else can you explain all the mirrors around the city? They’re everywhere- built into the interior design of stores or mounted in the oddest places. So far, in just two days I noticed that the chain  grocery store Monoprix (or was it Fanprix? I don’t remember) has rectangular mirrors on the sides of those cement columns all around the store. I could understand in the hair accessory aisle or beauty aisle, but why would anyone need a mirror in the soap or canned food isle other than to make sure that they’re just as beautiful as they remembered when they checked themselves out in the yogurt aisle.

I also found a large rectangular mirror on the side of a stone building and, most abundantly, on the wall adjacent to each customer’s table at a sandwich shop.

I don’t know how else to explain this phenomenon other than to guess that Parisian culture is very concerned with looking just so that they need these mirrors available at all times . God forbid the wind, rain or any other everyday force shifts a lock of hair three centimeters out of its proper place.

Speaking of another sense: In the French language, there is a very poetic way of describing the scent of perfume one leaves behind as they walk past you. It’s le sillage de parfum or “trail of perfume”. This phrase that I thought I would never really use has come to my mind several times while in Paris because everyone just smells so good!

And not in that [American] way of dousing yourself in perfume so that everyone knows that you’re wearing a $75 dollar perfume, but in a way that you only recognize it because they breezed past you and the scent perfume doesn’t have to  compete with as much air pollution as in NYC. And I am super appreciative of this as smelling something pleasant always has a way of boosting my mood ever so slightly. I’m sure there will be moments when I’m on the metro and I want to change cars because so-and-so smells offensive. But as of now I’m pretty sure we can dispel that other horrible and antiquated rumor about the French…

Je suis à Paris.

My first day in Paris felt like a dream.

Pars is definitely wonderful, interesting, beautiful and there is so much to be explored. But arriving when I haven’t slept in more than 24 hours (and then forced to wait from 8am to 2pm to check into my hotel room where I could finally sleep), it was hard to believe that I was IN PARIS and that tomorrow and the next day and the next 9 months I would still be here. Also, being here by myself with no one to talk to in English or even have a long conversation in French, made it feel like this all could be taken away from me as if by waking up from a dream.

This could be a very long post if I tried to describe my day so I’ll write some of the things I saw, felt or experienced and maybe I’ll expand on them later in a future post.

1. After claiming my baggage all I had to do was make my way outside to board my bus. No passport check? Nope, that was done in Iceland so I don’t get to have a cool stamp from France.. I might have been able to ask them to stamp it just for fun but I didn’t even see a desk where I could ask that. (And how does one say “ink stamp” in French? And how would you explain why you would want this without sounding suspicious? By the way the verb “to stamp” with ink is tamponner. Kind of glad I didn’t know that and try to use it.)

2. To get from CDG airport to the center of Paris you have to pass some ugly (sorry France) neighborhoods  to get to  where I would be staying, Gare Montparnasse. For a while on the bus I was getting quite nervous as I though “What is Paris isn’t as beautiful as I thought? What if it’s ugly and boring? How can I spend a year in a boring city that falls extremely short in comparison to NYC?”

3. Paris is great. I’ve only been in one neighborhood but it really impressed me. And so have the people. Of course I’ve only been here one day and have yet to interact with too many people, but as of right now I cannot tell you that “the French are so rude”.  However failure to disprove this renders the hypothesis ambiguous.

4. One thing I just cannot get over and wish I had photographic evidence happened this afternoon while I was walking down a petite little street in the 14eme. I was looking to get something to eat and thought I would enter (or think about returning to) this little boulangerie/patisserie that had a blue-painted store front. As I walked closer and got a view of their store window I noticed a teenaged boy cleaning the glass of the door and next to that was a display of colorful macarons above baskets of other pastries in the window. At first I thought I was seeing something.. or maybe they decorated the macarons or burnt them?… No, those most be flies on their macarons.. I mean, that happens from time to time somethimes you can’t help…NO, DEAR GOD THOSE ARE ROACHES CLIMBING ON THE MACARONS AND THAT IS ROACHES AS IN MORE THAN ONE. WHY IS THAT BOY NOT DOIN ANYTHING OR TOSSING THEM INTO THE STREET.

I die. I didn’t want to slander this patisserie by writing this and ruining their reputation (although they only have 2 reviews on yelp) but what I’m writing is the truth so…. I wouldn’t go to La Fournee Augustine in Montparnasse if your looking for a tasty treaty.

5. I don’t think that’s very representative of Paris though. I’ve been comparing it to New York City as I walk around and I feel like there are so many more restaurants here. There are less patisseries and boulangeries than I would have thought there would be, but then again this neighborhood might not be known for that since it’s full of a lot of hotels and may not be very residential. I did however have dinner (toute seule) at a Thai restaurant near my hotel. I got to eat à la terrasse and had a filling meal for 15,30 euros.

6. I also haven’t seen much litter nor pigeons (but quite a few dead ones on the road. Have they not yet evolved to be as adept at dodging cars as their NYC counterparts?).

7.a. Paris cross walks will need a little time to get used to me. Not only are many in the middle of the street  and criss cross, but also  the red standing man that signals “do not walk” does not blink to warn you that you’re time is running out. It just goes from green to red. I haven’t yet found out what happens if you haven’t made it to the other side when the walk signal turns red. I assume you would get automatically hit as Parisians do not slow down or wait for anyone.

7.b. Also there are a few crosswalks where the cars don’t have a light but are supposed to stop for you (I’m guessing as I haven’t actually seen the front of the sign myself). What you don’t know is that cars don’t just stop for you if they see you waiting on the edge of the sidewalk looking eager to cross. You just have to look forward and starting walking, hoping that they are upright citizens and paying attention to you as you speed up, slow down,speed up slow down your way across the road. Hopefully I won’t end up like the pigeons.

I think that should be it for today. It’s not an amazingly interesting post but just a few things I thought I’d jot down before I forgot.