En avril, ne te découvre pas d’un fil ; en mai, fais ce qu’il te plaît

My host shared this French proverb with me sometime in mid April when those of us in Paris experienced two or three days of 70+ degree weather. The expression, which communicates the distrust towards the capricious weather in April, warns against changing into a summer wardrobe and packing away your winter clothes. 

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If this is something most Parisians hold to be true, it would explain the lack of weather-appropriate clothing on those very warm days. It’s as if no one except for myself and some other foreigners looked at the weather forecast: while I was dressed in a bright yellow skirt, sandals and a tank top (perfectly appropriate for a 76 degree day anywhere else in the world) I was made to feel like an outcast amongst all the Parisians clad in leather jackets, black turtlenecks, [Ugg] boots, winter coats with fur trim hoods… Paris fashion is synonymous with black on black , but you’d think they’d spring for the chance to feel the sunshine on their forearm after 7 months of winter!

 

A book I read for a class this semester ‘L’Autre Rive’ compares French and American culture. Unlike many other books published before it on the same subject, the author focuses on the more psychological reasoning behind these differences and doesn’t just merely recite his observations but has done research to support his claims. 

 

One of the differences between the American individual and French individu is that the Français is more likely to avoid commitments and abide the terms put worth in a signed contract. From my personal although limited experience I feel like I definitely agree with this. Compared to American and anglophone acquaintances, I have had a harder time establishing a date and time to meet up with French acquaintance. Even if we managed to set a time, I would without fail never receive a confirmation message or they would cancel on me.

 

What does this have to do with wearing weather-inappropriate black leather pants on a hot day you may ask? Well, I have a theory that the reason Parisians love black clothing (and have a hard time giving it up) is because it greatly complements their psychological/behavioral tendencies  For a fashion conscious Parisian who has no idea what she or he is doing that day, when she/he is doing it, where she/he is doing it, who she/he is doing it with, a black ensemble will fit all these requirements! If a night at the cinema and some dancing with a date changes to a picnic on the quai with a friend and a midnight cat funeral, a black outfit will do the trick for any and all of these occasions. 

Fortunately for everyone who recoils at the mere idea of a strong sunshine that is powerful enough to upheave the ominous Parisian clouds, Paris is back to being gray and cold with sporadic rain showers during this first week of May.

 

As for me, I’ll be leaving Paris behind tomorrow and heading down to the south of France where I hope to see some sun and locals who are ‘dressing however they please’.

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The City of Light, The City That Sleeps

The day before Valentine’s day I celebrated my 21st birthday in Paris. During the week I had been searching for a French restaurant that offered great quality food but wasn’t incredibly expensive. I found two restaurants in Paris that looked very promising menu wise, but were both unfortunately no gos- one restaurant had thoughtfully closed during Valentines day week for renovations and the other restaurant’s days of ouverture conflicted with when I would want to have my birthday dinner- Wednesday night.

The night before my brithday I had finally found the perfect dining location: Cafe Constant. This restaurant is one component of the trifecta owned by Chef Christian Constant located in the 7th and  a five minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. The menu was full of French-inspired innovated dishes and it would actually be open on Wednesday. When I arrived there that night I found that Cafe Constant was closed for renovations!

Luckily the night was not spoiled. My dinner companion and I wasted little time finding a substitute:  Les Cocottes– the second of Chonstant’s restaurants on Rue Saint Dominique whose price range falls right in between Cafe Constant and his 3rd and most ritzy restaurant Le Vilolon d’Ingres.

 

 ImageThe not so classic “Classic Cesar Salad” at Les Cocottes 

 

One thing that I spend little time worrying about when living in New York is the opening and closing hours of stores. While chain stores are virtually always open, even smaller shops are usually open 7, maybe 6 days a week, and if so the day of rest for businesses is usually on Sunday. In Paris, the ‘day of rest’ can equally affect business Saturday, Sunday, Monday or  Wednesdays. Good luck trying to find a lunch spot that’s open after 2 :30 and before 6 :30pm in case you’re in need of a late lunch- that’s when the workers are taking their break and preparing for dinner. In additional to that there are always fermeteures exceptionelles that you won’t know about until you arrive at the store front.  

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Moral of the story. If you’re in Paris and plan to go to a specific museum restaurant or store Always have a plan b

The world did’t end yesterday and I made it home!

Here’s a little homage to the unfortunate middle child, Queens. Not as forgotten, unfamiliar or unaccessible as The Bronx and Staten Island, but often eclipsed by Brooklyn and Manhattan.

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“I don’t do Queens,” a Manhattanite told me the other day.

Remember old New York, where immigrants strived, cultures collided, grit outshined glamour and ethnic restaurants were filled with ethnic crowds, not Instagramming foodies? Before Manhattan commerce was diluted with H&M and Starbucks, and Brooklyn became half hipster playground, half suburb substitute? That city lives on in Queens, where the forces of gentrification have barely nipped at the edges of the city’s most expansive borough, home to 2.2 million people, from (it seems) 2.2 million backgrounds.

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If it were to secede from New York City would become the fourth most-populous city in America and almost certainly its most diverse.

 

Quotations from 2 New York Times articles on Queens.

Read here: 

http://travel.nytimes.com/2012/12/23/travel/36-hours-in-queens-ny.html

http://frugaltraveler.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/20/36-hours-in-queens-enough-frugal-options-for-a-week/