Paris: It Is Not New York

Stores in Paris keep odd hours, and there doesn’t seem to be a pattern to it. A pharmacie will be closed on a weekday afternoon, and the one down the block will be open and bustling. Posted hours are a catch-as-catch-can thing. The weirdest one: I don’t think the charcutier up the block (whose quiche lorraine we’re having for breakfast daily) opened at all on Saturday, but we wandered in at 21:00 on a Sunday and he could barely keep up with the foot traffic.

Maybe living in 24/7-land (a.k.a. NYC) has wrecked my brain, but I do wonder what the pattern is that I’m not seeing.

One trick I’ve learned (totally unrelated): When someone tries to hustle you on the street, give them a cranky look and deny understanding French – but do it in Russian. It’s like con man kryptonite.

Paris: Still Digging It

Kristin has again recounted a day of our time in Paris, and I have little to add to the plot (though I have uploaded some photos).

An observation: If you ask for a coffee in Paris, the default response is to bring you espresso. If you are in a touristy part of Paris and/or your French accent is as unconvincing as mine, they may ask you if you want an espresso or an American coffee. If you ask for the latter, they will draw you an espresso and add water to it – which I think tells you everything you need to know about what they think of our coffee. (And I’m not saying they’re wrong.) The good news: I like espresso.

Tonight: U2 concert.

Paris: So Far, So Good

Kristin offers an excellent account of our first day in Paris. I have only a few things to add.

It’s true what they say – most of the French seem willing to cheerily accommodate you if you attempt to speak the language, even if you knowingly mangle the grammar and forget which consonants to swallow. They’re actually quite sporting about it.

I’m really glad Kristin took the time to read up on standards of dress here. I won’t claim that I blend in perfectly, but at least I don’t look like a mark. I see a lot of tourist couples where the man is my age and my (sightly inflated) size, and he’s wearing a polo shirt, jeans, cheap running shoes, and an electric blue backpack over both shoulders, and I think, “Damn, I want to mug that guy.” I might try it, just to see what it’s like.

The neighborhood is kind of funny. The Sacré Coeur basilica is an imposing structure that looks down on you from its hilltop and declares: “Catholicism is Serious Business”. All the way down the hill, people are engaged in a variety of un-serious and not especially Catholic (though arguably catholic) business, such as selling Eiffel Tower knick-knacks, drumming and dancing, caricaturing tourists, selling counterfeit handbags, and drinking wine from the bottle on the steps of the basilica. I should note that the drinking was being done not by alcoholic vagrants, but mostly by respectable-looking twenty-somethings. It’s not something you’d see in the U.S. – but then, neither is Sacré Coeur.