So, I am in Paris. France. I have to clarify that because there is a Paris, Texas, and it’s a big joke in Texas to let people think you’re going to THE Paris, when you’re actually going to East Texas. So, I am in THE Paris.. Here are some highlights from my two days here.
It’s just another city. No accordian music greeted me when I stepped off the plane. Granted, I couldn’t read all the signs, and I had to stand in line to go through customs, but Charles de Gaulle was like the dozens of other airports I’ve been through. I did, however, hear a man playing the accordian on the metro (train). Then, it felt a little more like the Paris you see in the movies.
It’s green here. Very, very green. Since we’ve spent the last several years in a drought stage in Texas, with only a few periods of flash flooding (doing more damage than good), I’ve almost forgotten what green looked like. It’s very beautiful. There are lots of flowers and fountains, too. For a large city, the largest in Europe I think, it has a surprisingly park-like feel. There are four parks that I know of within just a few blocks of my apartment, one being the Champ de Mars where the Eiffel Tower stands.
The Eiffel Tower is massive. That would seem to be obvious to even someone who hasn’t seen it, but until you really see it, you cannot comprehend how big it really is.
Distances are deceptive. What looks close on a map can be an hour walk. The designers of Paris seem to have been unaware of the concept of square blocks. Many cross-streets in my area are at odd angles. A map is an absolute necessity, and I have to check it at every cross-street to adjust my direction. Many people say it’s hard to get a sense of direction in Paris, and I have to agree.
The people are happy to take my money, even when all I can do is point at what I want. They make an effort to say a few words in English when I ask, especially when I make an effort to say a few words in French, butchering the pronunciation as only a Texan can. I’ve not found any Parisians to be snooty, and I have taken it upon myself to avoid being the stereotypical American that demands to be catered to. I am in their country, and I am trying to fit in.
There are not any HEBs here, the grocery store chain of choice in Central Texas. That is refreshing. Small markets on every corner offer fresh produce, meat, flowers, and bread. Larger markets every few blocks offer other necessities. It is very refreshing to walk a few blocks and buy most of what you need, freshly made, and walk home to eat it. No fighting for parking spaces or pushing an oversize cart through a 10 million square foot store. Nice.
Cars are very tiny. I have seen a few smart cars, but even the regular cars are freakishly small. My friend who lives here doesn’t even own a car. Parking is a royal pain. The streets are unbelievably narrow. Remember, the sense of direction issue? It is compounded when driving, I’m sure, because most streets are also one-way. Why bother with a car?
That’s enough for now. It is 8:30 a.m. here, and I am off for another busy day with friends. Au Revoir!