Sunday, September 27, 2009

Le Mickey Mouse

I am guilty of going to Disneyland Paris.

You may have already concluded that my Parisian amour doesn't stray towards the eclectic or the intellectually haute. I like my Paris straight up with its Eiffel Tower light show, crepes on every corner, my Louis Vuitton bags and never passing a chocolat shop without stopping. My love is uncomplicated. I have no desire to tour the catacombes, participate in the weekly rollerblade around the city or search long and hard for a dark restaurant that doesn't serve cervelle until 22:00. C'est pas moi.

However I don't embrace the distinctly Americanized aspects of Paris either. No McDonalds, no Starbucks, no Nike, no asking for non-fat products or raising my voice to make myself understood. C'est pas moi.

But I did find myself at Disneyland Paris this past May.

Please understand my husband, at nearly forty years old, has never been to Disneyland. As we had a full fourteen days in Paris, we figured we had one to spare at The Magic Kingdom. Please also understand that Paris, at first blush, can be a bit overwhelming to some - my husband is one of the "some" and we thought Disneyland would be a good place to ease into our trip.

The first embarrassment came early in the day when surrounded by chic Parisian commuters at the Metro Station I had to ask for "deux carnets pour Disneyland". I swear it is the only train ticket you cannot purchase at the automated machine thus earning me a major eye roll and shoulder shrug from the attendant. Still I was hopeful.

Like all public transportation in Europe, the train was uneventful and efficient and in less than 45 minutes we were in a land far, far away from anything resembling the Paris of my dreams. Rather imagine any suburban strip mall containing oversized stores and restaurants that no one ever seems to shop at or eat at and then plonk down a smaller, exact version of Disneyland (Anaheim) to its left and le voila.

It is eerily similar to its California predecessor - starting with Main Street USA, the piped in music, the placement of Frontierland to Adventureland, etc., etc. It took us less than the train ride to realize we were not anywhere we wanted to be. The magic of Disney does not translate into French.

I felt uncomfortable for the French people working there dressed in cheap, unbreathable uniforms, Disney logos stifling their usual slouchy chicness. It was like when you see a dog dressed in one of those doggy designer outfits to make them look like a biker or a princess or a dog that likes to wear Cosby sweaters. You know the dog is dying of embarrassment. But you can't look away because it so wonderfully, unnaturally freakish. Trust me, that is what it is like to see French people wearing in Disney uniforms.

My husband and I stuck it out for most of the day. We had come all that way, spent all those Euros to get in and we knew we would never be going back. We embraced the Disney, bought silly ears and wandered the park taking pictures and eating Disney themed food.

Later that night, back in our natural, glorious habitat of downtown Paris, we grinned like lunatics at the blinged out Eiffel Tower while eating crepes bought on the steps of Trocadero.

Paris. Straight up.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Paris Blues

It's been awhile since I have posted. In fact I was shocked to see how long when I logged in this afternoon. You see I "write" nightly - - in my head as I am falling asleep I think of beautiful things to write about Paris. But then I don't actually sit down at the computer and the beautiful things disappear in my dreams.

So now its September and I have wasted a summer of ideas. Paris hasn't been far from my thoughts though. On July 12 I fulfilled a on-my-must-do-list and had an Eiffel Tower tattooed on my right side. If I wasn't so worried about the ramifications of posting photos of oneself online, I would post a photo to show it off. Trust me, its perfect. And yes, I know true Parisians would probably faint from how unchic it is but I love it more than enough to justify its permanence. Chic or not.

And then of course there was the media explosion over the movie Julie & Julia.

Earlier this summer,following a soul enriching 2 week vacation/love-in spent entirely in downtown Paris with my husband, I bought him Julia Child's book My Life in France. Finally a book written by an American about France that isn't condescending or full of smug Americans traipsing all over Paris looking for non-fat dairy products. Julia Child LOVED France. Pure and simple. The book made me ache for Paris.

And no I still haven't seen the movie. I did just - barely - finish Julie Powell's bestselling book Julie & Julia and I must write that I believe a lot was lost on me. First, obviously the book is set in New York not Paris; second, I abhor cooking -even French cooking. It is really the one thing that can't be made better for simply being French.

A quick digression to list just a few things that are better because they are French: public transportation, hats, apricots, smoking, accordions, Vogue magazine, small tables and even smaller dogs.

Anyway as our vacation become more distant, my Paris Blues descended.

Then a few weeks ago a dear and very talented writer friend visited me from London. Over cocktails in a neighbourhood that can only be described as nouveau hippy chic, he "invited" me to Paris for his magazine's Paris issue celebration and launch. At the very famous English bookstore Shakespeare & Co. - this bookstore can be found in any Paris travel guide from stoic Rick Steeves to the backpacker bible Lonely Planet.


My Paris Blues are now clinical. This coming Friday while he toasts his magazine with French alcohol deliciousness, I will likely be curled up on my couch eating confiture d'abricot straight from the jar.