Paris, final days

We took a night time cruise on the Seine. The cruise started at 9 p.m. and there was light out until almost 10:30. The Seine is a working river especially for large (250 plus people) boats. It seems all the bridges in Paris commemorate some historical event and they only build new bridges that way. Fortunately for France they do a lot of historical events so bridge building (in Paris) is alive and well.

We went to a lovely park on Sunday for an international jazz concert. Some old African American “jazz legend” (We all know you have to be old to be a legend. If you die then you are “dead old Jazz legend?”) The park was filled with Parisians enjoying the sunny day with food and wine (what else) What was missing was I bet not one French man or woman was using sun block. The sun is rarely, or semi rarely shines here and any time the sun comes out people go “Sun-atic” as opposed to lunatic. 3 days later I noticed too many young French men and women glowing with sun burns on the Metro. Anita and I were lathered up with SPF 70 or better. I’ve never been whiter.

We took several “free” walking tours of Paris except you have to tip the guide around 10 Euros each at the end. “Free” has lost meaning I am finding in the world. Again we were lectured on small facts about a buildings history, famous/infamous people who lived in the neighborhood and other bits of trivia. One area we walked through is the Marais, the old Jewish part of Paris. There is a memorial wall, the Shoah memorial, to deceased people who were considered righteous and helped or hid Jews when the Nazis occupied the city during WW2. This neighborhood has also become the very trendy art/gay area of Paris with great shopping and lots of galleries. As mentioned we took several walking tours of Paris, the other being to the Latin quarter and the area around the Sorbonne.

The French in Paris: If you have been to Paris you quickly realize that the French here, the Parisians, are…I think the word is… aloof. They never walk the streets with a smile on their face nor look at people and smile. Amsterdam folks were like that too. I guess people from other large US cities are also that way, a little too self possessed and feel no need to “be nice.” Many of the French spoke English, but when you asked some of them they said “oui”, but with the understanding that they were doing you a favor.

We went to a jazz club Wednesday night in the Latin Quarter and the band was OK. They played more rock and blues than jazz. Miles Davis played there in the 50s. A small glass of Guinness and a bottle of hard cider were 18 Euros, but the cover was free. As I mentioned above “free” has lost its connection with meaning. Maybe I am just finding this out.
One positive matter to report is that the drivers in Paris do stop at red lights. I was a little amazed at that. Traffic is not congested in most of Paris. People here use the Metro to get around and we did every day and are now experts on the Metro of Paris (Questions?) The Metro is great. I do miss the entertainers and vendors you find on the Mexico City metro though. Paris riders are a silent glum group. The majority are on their smart phones playing games, texting or listening to music.

France (the economic report): As some of you may know I am an eclectic guy and I am interested, or take an interest in the “dismal science” of economics. Again, as all of you know, Europe is going through an economic recession just like the US. But not in France. The French are still living in a bubble of good economic times. The wine flows, the cheese and bakeries are jammed, the cafes are crowded, young women still wear dresses and smoke a pack of cigarettes a day to look cosmopolitan and stay thin—To digress, there was an article I read about French girls and they start smoking at 15 and are allowed to smoke at school. They recently stopped the practice of the kids smoking in class. Yea, really. The article said French women would rather smoke than gain weight. And you thought American young women had “issues” about their self image—Anyway, hurry and get here before the French have economic problems— AND ECONOMIC BAD TIMES ARE COMING TO FRANCE. But right now all is good and gay (old meaning of the adjective) in Paris. Wine is cheap and good.

Anita and I took the visual artist spiritual journey to the home of Monet in Giverny. It is about an hour’s travel by train out of Paris. Monet is the father of impressionism and one of the greatest artists of the the 19th/20th Century. Anita sat on a bench in the garden and did a small water color.

The last day in Paris we went to our last museum—the Musee del Monde Arabe. Basically it was Arabic art and had a special show on nudity in Arabic art. Of course art with the nude body was repressed (and may still be) in the Islamic world. Kind of interesting. They had one video exhibit (I’m not making this up) of two guys playing ping pong with a nude women laying across the table as sort of a net.

Scattered thoughts: France is not a coffee culture. Coffee at cafes is served in the smallest possible cup, expensive and not very good…checkout clerks at grocery stores sit down behind the registers…Paris has more ornate buildings in the world, most in good repair…there are one too many women’s clothing stores in Paris… On to Spain, Ole!

 

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7 Responses to “Paris, final days”

  1. Shelley Says:

    Thanks for the update!!! Hope you have a grand time in Spain – I just read where the unemployment rate is 25% – that is really really high –

  2. Nan Says:

    Sounds like you are truly “soaking up the culture” and making an intelligent journey through Paris! Hope Spain will be a pleasure. I’ve always imagined sitting in one of those small dark cafes, drinking wine, and watching beautiful, glowering flamenco dancers…
    Enjoy!

  3. Pat Dismukes Says:

    Michael, your writing as usual is splendid and tells me exactly what I want to know. Lucy me to have the two of you in my family! Can’t wait to hear about Spain. Carry on!

  4. Pat Dismukes Says:

    The K on my computer is dying Lucy in the previous comment was suppose to be lucky! Jeeze

  5. Val Says:

    Continue to enjoy your photos and blogs..Keep ’em coming!

    Val

  6. Jill Flyer Says:

    Hi Anita and Michael!

    Having been a French major and have spent mucho time in Paris, I do have some comments on what you have written, a few as corrections, more as filler.

    In no particular order:

    The French drink Cafe Creme (what we tend to call Cafe au Lait) in the mornings (only! otherwise you will be branded immediately as a tourist!). This is served in large wide cups and consists of equal parts of strong coffee and hot milk. After noon, no self respecting Frenchman or woman will drink cafe creme. They drink Espresso, served in teeny tiny cups.

    As for the glum people on the Metro, have you ever seen how glum people are going to work in Chicago (where you, and I, Anita are from) or New York? Everyone though takes the Metro. I once met the conductor of the Birmingham Symphony on the Metro.

    Re the Marais… it is one of the oldest, if not the oldest sections of Paris, and was not only the Jewish sector.

    Re the bridges: You didn’t mention how lovely the old bridges are, especially the Pont Neuf which is the oldest bridge (and, by the way, means New Bridge) and the magnificent Pont Alexandre III, my very favorite, with its ornate, gilded ironwork.

    As for Parisians being thin, first of all, yes, they do walk more than we do. I think everyone in the world walks more than we do. But besides that, they don’t eat large portions and don’t eat all of the horrid prepared foods that we do.

    As for fashion, the Parisians have always been the most fashionable. The styles in Italy are more fashionable, but the Parisian women know how to put it all together. And, as for the thin legged pants, they have been in fashion in the U.S. also for at least 2 years, as well as the draped scarves. You need to read the junky screen mags that I do to know that.

    Finally, my bugaboo: All the world descends on Paris in the summer…tourists from all over the world, but especially from the U.S., Japan and Germany. And the Americans are the worst…. there is a true concept of the Ugly American. The Americans expect everyone to speak English, never even try to say hello in French. How hard is it, to learn to ask someone in their own language, Do you speak English? I have learned to say that in every country I have visited, but the average American just blunders up to the French and starts speaking English. After awhile, tempers flare (and I’ve seen that in Italy too) and people tend to get snarly. I have never, however, seen people get snarly when someone goes out of their way to ask a question in French.

    OK, end of soapbox.

    Keep up the good work and the wonderful blog of your journeys.

    Jill

    P.S. I lived one summer in Versailles, at the back of the stables that front onto the palace. The so-called dormatories (that’s another story!) where I lived were torn down in 1989, but I will never forget each morning, as I walked out of the front door ,seeing the magnificent palace of Versailles. It was a hard adjustment coming back to Chicago where my view was the local supermarket.

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