October 26th, 2006

Paris observations

It’s afternoon here, and I’m about to go out and do a bit of unaccustomed sightseeing.

What have I been doing instead? Mostly writing, talking, and eating. So now I’m going to take a few hours and do ye olde tourist thing, and then get back and write a more substantive post in my series on the trial, and on French attitudes and philosophy; I’ve got a lot more to say.

But here are just a few observation of the lighter variety:

(1) French style still exists, but it’s markedly attenuated. On my previous visits here (one in 1963—I was a mere child, of course—one in 1978, 0ne in 1993) there was an air of extreme sophistication, of bred-in-the-bone elegance, especially among the women. Now, walking down the street, if it weren’t for the French language and the beautiful old buildings, one could be in Anytown, USA. Jeans, jeans, and more jeans; sloppy shirts and sweaters of no particular style or shape, and cellphones sprouting everywhere like a new appendage joining the head and hand.

I did see one woman who seemed to be singlehandedly upholding the remnants of French style, like the Statue of Liberty with her torch. I wish I’d had my camera (I’m planning to take it with me this afternoon), because words cannot describe her outfit adequately. It was entirely apple green–or rather, neo-neocon Granny Smith Green—a fitted and stylish suit, and intricately embroidered lacy tights in the same green color. Shoes, as well, and a purse—all apple green. Sounds dreadful, but with her model-thin figure and striking auburn hair, she managed to pull it off.

(2) Every now and then you see a remnant of the old France, tiny old ladies with shopping bags, shuffling along with a baguette in the sack, slow but steady. They saw the Occupation, lived through it, and know that this, too, will pass. All of it.

(3) ATM machines are missing an important step in their English translations. When you get to the all-important “Press the confirm button” prompt—well, of course, there is no “confirm” button, nor is there a translation so that you can determine which one it might be.

And pressing all the buttons doesn’t work, as I can attest. The solution? Cherchez a passing American and get instructions. You’ll be glad you did.

(4) Paris has now joined the modern world and gotten the dog-poop-on-the-sidewalk problem under control. But alas, dogs no longer seem ubiquitous in restaurants.

(5) A lot of “women of a certain age” here have mastered the Jeanne Moreau look: mature, with huge circles under the eyes that somehow seem tres chic–on them. How do they manage it? They won’t tell me the secret—after all, they’re French.

And now I’m outta here. Back with more substantive stuff later.

12 Responses to “Paris observations”

  1. mikeski Says:

    What are “open tights”?

  2. neo-neocon Says:

    An error.

    See correction.

  3. harry Says:

    ” wish I’d had my camera (I’m planning to take it with me this afternoon), because words cannot describe her outfit adequately. It was entirely apple green–or rather, neo-neocon Granny Smith Green–a tight and stylish suit, and intricately embroidered lacy tights in the same green color. Shoes, as well, and a purse–all apple green. Sounds dreadful, but with her model-thin figure and striking auburn hair, she managed to pull it off.”

    I wish you had your camera too! I remember from my time in Germany during the ’80′s that the women there could also pull off some exotic and excentric fashion and do that well. Not everybody. Most people then too, wore jeans, but sometimes the streets and sidewalks resembled fashion runways. I kinda like that about Europe.

  4. Fausta Says:

    I’d love to be there, but I’m glad you are!

  5. Robert Schwartz Says:

    “But alas, dogs no longer seem ubiquitous in restaurants.”

    Alas? Seems like a good thing to me. The only place a dog should be found in a restaurant is on the menu.

    “A lot of “women of a certain age” here have mastered the Jeanne Moreau look: mature, with huge circles under the eyes … How do they manage it?”

    2 packs of Gitaines a day.

  6. Webutante Says:

    About ten years ago, I was in Paris lunching at a fashionable restaurant outdoors. The salad came first and was as fresh and wonderful as it could be. Then, towards the bottom of the bowl, there was a little snail making its way across the remaining greens. I was not horrified, but rather bemused. So when the waiter came to clear my plate, I pointed out the little critter with no particular agenda except to make note of it.

    You would have thought I had told him a bomb was about to go off in the Eiffel Tower. He ran off with the plate and came back to our table with the maitre d’ and the owner. Such a fuss as you have never seen! They wanted to give us a free meal, champagne, desssert, and I do believe the restaurant if I had protested. Of course I wasn’t a bit interested in anything but having the fuss end.

    We settled on free lunches and a good time was had by all….so do watch for snails. At least in the old Paris, they can be subject of a great story when you get back home, if not a full-course meal.

    Bon appetit

  7. jgr Says:

    France is in the news here, but not for its tourist attractions.

    Are you aware of the domestic disturbances? the October anniversary? (information about which I first found through an English source)(of course)

  8. douglas Says:

    When we were there in ’96 we joked that the kids were ‘more American than American kids’. It was both amusing and sickening at the same time. At least the adults hadn’t really gone overboard yet.

  9. neo-neocon Says:

    jgr–That news is in the papers, but in Paris I’ve seen no trace of it. People discuss the car burnings, etc., as an ongoing event, but I haven’t heard anything about the new threats, or how people feel about them.

  10. camojack Says:

    Haven’t been there since ’88…

  11. armchair pessimist Says:

    If you know some French, here’s where to catch up on the dhimmitudes du jour over there:

    http://www.france-echos.com/

    (The English translation button yields pure babblefish)

    Of course, there’s no way of telling whether the consitiuency here represents the first or final signs of Sanity in France.

  12. WEVS1 Says:

    “But alas, dogs no longer seem ubiquitous in restaurants.”

    You just need to get to the neighborhoods where Parisians hang out. Last time I was there my wife and I went to this quaint hole-in-the-wall bar/restaurant where people were having their after work drinks. A couple of people had their dogs with them. An elderly lady finished her steak-frites and left the plate on the floor so her dog could eat the remnants. There was not much left but the dog licked that plate for a long time…

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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