Sunday, May 22, 2016

Paris, May 2016

It's as I remember it, except for a few things. The first I noticed were the vape shops and juice détox establishments, and the slightly greater presence of donuts and muffins. Not full-on Americanization, but always a notch further in that direction.

Then, the security. Not just at the Jewish museum (which had the usual pre-flight situation, not that I'm complaining), but at every museum. At the larger stores. Not unheard-of globally (see: Israel), but more than I remember from post-9/11 New York. Fewer flags, but more bag checks. And a lot of soldiers with machine guns. More depressing than frightening, I suppose, but I guess it depends where you're coming from and what, on that front, seems normal.

-Other, more personal, and less geopolitical observations: The best bakery is still there, and still has the best croissants (it was closed today, so I was reminded...), and still only hiring male models. Flan, meanwhile, is great everywhere, if not necessarily better than Toronto's Portuguese custard tarts.

-Oh, and chain stores - the French ones have come to the US and maybe Canada as well; the US ones are here if they weren't already; and then there are some international chains from elsewhere. Good in many ways (you can get cool stuff and not need to shell out for flights!), but definitely means there's zero point in going to the Galeries Lafayette if you live near Hudson's Bay/the Eaton Centre.

-And yet! Frenchwomen, super chic. Shouldn't be surprising, but... it had been a while. A cliché for a reason and all that. I'm trying to make a note of exactly why their outfits work (note: me and the rest of the anglophone world, and the answer is partly that they eat less pasta than I do, and I'm not prepared to follow up on that...), although I'm not sure if the necessary shopping will take place in Paris.

-The following two things - one great, one not-so-great - are probably related: So I'd last been to Paris five years ago, and due to various career-shift-type reasons, was unsure when I'd ever have a chance to come back. Things converged to make it possible and I'm beyond thrilled to be here. Like, ogling each and every apartment building and sighing over how beautiful everything is. The full tourist thing, in other words. But! Between my tourist vibe; my unwillingness, in my dotage, to dress as if I'm not American (fleece, jeans); and the fact that my spouse and I do - sorry - tend to speak to each other in English; I've had the very odd experience of speaking to people in what is without a doubt the best French I've ever spoken and getting responses along the lines of (and this was said in French!), would you prefer the English menu?

I don't take it personally, I don't think (these are tourist areas, in the sense that just about everything in central-ish Paris is, and I have French-Canadian friends who've gotten the English-response in Paris in these situations). Except maybe a little, considering that the $$ paying for this was primarily earned teaching French classes. And that one of the places where this happened, I was buying a French novel, and not some sort of leather-bound thing that could plausibly have been for home decor.

I mean, I can summon enough non-neurosis to realize that this is the default way of being welcoming to visitors - not just tourists, and goodness knows not just anglophones. (The Germans at the next table did want to do everything in English.) At any rate, the croissant situation and the sheer gorgeousness of this city make up for it.

1 comment:

Caitlin Kelly said...

Having been to Paris a lot (and lived there in my 20s) my theory about why French women look so great -- unless super-rich, they edit carefully. Clothes are costly (sales only twice a year) and apartments tiny, so whatever they choose to own is generally of high quality, well-made and tailored and kept for a long time. You don't see women past 30, say, slavishly following trends.

I also see a lot of charming/brave customization, like a woman in her 70s wearing olive sneakers with burgundy laces. They seem skilled at adding charm and quirk.

I grew up in Toronto (now live in NY) so have seen the differences. Living in Paris influenced my style more than anything else.