Friday, May 24, 2013

Un Petit Peu

If you give a little in Paris, you get a lot.

A couple of trips ago, Chris observed the best way to deal with Parisian pedestrian traffic was to hold your path and walk purposefully.  It's not about being rude but you don't have to shrink back against a building wall or throw yourself into oncoming traffic to avoid oncoming Parisians.  Just walk.

As a Canadian not apologizing for everything or jumping out of the way for everyone feels strange.  But Chris' observation was correct, Parisians seem to respect directness and don't have much patience for stammering, unnecessary apologies.

It's a fine line between directness and rudeness.

After five days of interacting with Parisians and doing everything from asking for directions, buying metro tickets to ordering coffees, I have noticed I get the best service when I am confident.  If I stutter, apologize or refuse to make eye contact,  I become a target and they can't wait to shoot me with their impressive English skills.

This morning I visited Musée des Lettres et Manuscrits, a museum that has been on my  "Paris List" for many years but understandably holds little appeal to most people. I was inspired by the collection and the letters  written by  Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, Claude Monet, etc.  

When I walked in I saw that the ticket counter was staffed by three, beautiful bored looking French girls who I imagined had multiple literature degrees from the Sorbonne.  I was immediately intimidated, forgot how to speak any French and as a result was treated to a shaming in English complete with over-the-top hand gestures to indicate the "permanent collection was downstairs".  

Hours later, soaking wet and frozen from my walk along Boulevard Saint Germain, I stopped at a familiar café near Musée d’Orsay to warm up with a café crème.  It was heaving with tourists and looked more like a Denny's during the early bird special rush hour.  I walked in with confidence and stuck my spot at the bar.  I was warmly greeted with a "Bonjour Madame" and a cheeky wink.  My café crème appeared almost immediately and it came with an extra chocolate.  The waiter gave me my total in French and I thanked him, in French, for the chocolate.

I am learning how to walk the line.  I am learning what to give in order to get.  I am learning that a little smile, a well-spoken colloquialism, a shrug of the shoulders, a confident posture makes life a lot easier in Paris. 

How to spot a Parisian in May...

They are the ones wearing winter coats.  Today I saw two women wearing FUR coats!  One of them on Rue Cler, walking her son to school, had on a shaggy black, 3/4 length fur coat with skinny jeans and bright blue retro style New Balance sneakers.  Somehow it worked.

Best tourist conversation I overheard today on Rue Saint Dominique...

"I just can't wait to get home, put on my Lululemons and go for a drive in my car."
I wish tourists wouldn't...

Carry water bottles.  It's walking in Paris not hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro.  Where are you going in central Paris that you need to be concerned about being without water?  If anything, Paris has an exceptional supply and selection of bottled water.  La Grand Epicerie has an entire wall devoted to just bottled water.  And it can't be about money because you have enough money to be traveling in Paris. 

A single girl's best friend in Paris...

The "demi-baguette".  One of the many things I love about Paris is you can buy exactly the amount of food you want.  No waste.  This "demi" will be part of my dinner and make a delicious tartine for breakfast tomorrow.  Though I can't wait for Chris to get here so we can buy the whole baguette!

Eric Kayser demi-baguette
Some Paris deliciousness to start your weekend...

Palmier from Rue Cler bakery.  It's HUGE and a bargain at 2 euros!
I know this looks like something "le petit chat", Sophie, left in my suitcase but it's actually one of my most FAVOURITE Paris treats - Maison Georges Larnicol kouignette. A must eat in Paris!

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