Bonne Vacance de Paris!

15 12 2010

Hey guys, I thought I’d drop in on you and say hi before you all skate off to your summer holiday.  Speaking of summer – here’s your weather forecast and mine, side by side.  You guys have NO idea what cold is.  I can’t leave the house without a jumper, coat, & gloves.  Your winter is now my t-shirt weather.  I’m loving it =)

I’ve posted a bunch of photos for you in a MobileMe gallery – have a peek.

I’ve been in Paris for just over 3 months now.  Really interesting experience.  We’re living in an apartment on the west side of town just outside the outskirts of the Paris centre in a town called Neuilly-sur-Seine (pron. Neuhhh-yeee seeuur Seyne), which is apparently where the President Nicolas Sarkozy used to live before he was elected, and we’ve heard rumours that Johnny Depp keeps a little place around here.  We can see La Tour Eiffel from our hallway window – it’s nice to look out on the hour at night and see it sparkling.  There’s an amazing bakery, greengrocer, fromagerie (cheese shop), câve (wine shop), café, and a couple of alimentations (like an all-hours general store) all within dead easy walking distance.  The Metro is a little bit further away than that, and it’s the line that runs straight through the heart of the city along the Seine.  Subsequently, we don’t own a car.  Amazing feeling.  Plus, the way the French drive, I think I’m safer on foot.

Ok, so French reputation point #1, the food.  Interesting fact.  Parisiens don’t eat baguettes.  They live up to the stereotype of walking around with bread sticks, but they’re not baguettes.  Sure, you can buy ’em, but the real locals get this bread called a “baguette de tradition,” or “tradi.”  Much nicer.  Think like nice crusty Italian bread but with a softer crust, chewier bread, and shaped like a stick.  Butchers all have a chicken roasting cabinet outside.  You have not eaten chicken until you’ve had one of these bad boys.  On a more gruesome note, a lot of butchers have cabinets with whole pheasants and rabbits, skin intact inside to buy and cook.  Speaking of unsettling meats, I’ve added 3 species to my list of animals I’ve eaten.  Frogs legs are AMAZING.  They taste, predictably like chicken, but much more tender.  Snails are just disappointing.  A little bit chewy, and don’t really have a flavour of their own – they serve them in shells with garlic butter.  Horse is amazing – like really steaky steak.  French coffee is awful.  Like, weapons-grade awful.

French reputation point #2 – attitude.  The French are not rude, let me get that one right out in the open.  I’ve not met a single rude Frenchy since I’ve been here, and I’ve been a bumbling, can’t-string-a-proper-sentence-together goofball on more than one occasion.  I have however seen them fight fire with fire, if you’re rude to a French person, expect cordon bleu rudeness back – we were grabbing some lunch at the Louvre, fumbling our way through ordering in French (we’d been in the country 3 days) and the staff were being really patient and friendly.  Especially when my order directly translated to “I would like a neighbourhood of pizza.”  Anyway, a lady came up behind us at the counter, and started talking at the staff in a thick southern US accent, not even bothering to string a sentence together in English: “TURRRRIST AWFFICE.  TURRRRIST AWWFFICE?” – the dudes behind the counter pretended not to understand, pointed in the opposite direction to where the tourist office was, and she walked off.  Then they grinned at us, then charged us for our lunch in English.

The day before, we’d been to the military history museum, and seen an exhibition on Charles de Gaulle, a general and national leader during World War II.  The French aren’t arrogant.  They’re proud.  Large parts of France including Paris were under pretty heavy Nazi occupation during WWII, and it was a real struggle to regain their homeland.  It is an absolutely beautiful place, and the fact that it wasn’t handed to them on a silver platter and it was pretty hard-won puts that attitude into perspective.  I’ve seen a pile of tourists come in here with that “Bali mentality” of thinking that the residents of their holiday destination are their servants, when in fact they’re the hosts, and those tourists are the guests.  Paris is a hugely multi-ethnic city, so Parisiens aren’t opposed to outsiders, they’re understandably opposed to having people come in acting like they own the place.  It makes all the racist drama going down in Australia look pretty childish.

I’ve been doing some relief teaching at a little International School a 10 minute walk from home.  Nice place, nice kids.  Fingers crossed it’ll lead to some more stuff – they’re about to start boosting up their techie program, so a nerd like me should fit right in.

Anyway, maybe I’ll see you guys on Skype sometime today.  If I don’t – have a fantastic break.

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One response

16 12 2010
Tyler McOmish

Thanks for the post Mr joel

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