Thursday, August 18, 2011

Arriving in Paris

Nous arrivons a Paris!
12 hours in the air. At least 2 hours of lay over in Houston. 9 hours of time change forward. That’s what it takes to get to Paris from Portland. 45 minutes waiting for the bags. 15 minutes going through customs. 30 minutes waiting for the shuttle. 90 minutes to get from Charles De Gaulle airport to midtown Paris. That’s what it takes to get in town during peak rush hour. One hour later, we’re checked into our hotel. That’s what it takes to finally be at home in Paris, ready to go for a walk, find a restaurant and do some people watching. So, here, dear reader, are some cogent comments for you:

C’est une voiture. Most all are boxy and small – the better to squeeze together on the highway and make sudden lane changes

C’est une rue. Most were laid out as game trails before Julius Caeser conquered Gaul. Now they full of parked cars. All the time. Sometime on both sides. Yet drivers treat them as 4-lane highways. What’s the speed limit here? Who knows! Pedestrians beware.

C’est un boulevard. This is at 8 pm, not rush hour — at the corner of boulevards Arago and Port Royal in Les Gobilins section of the Latin Quarter. And if you get into a near fender-bender, don’t apologize. Instead, roll down your windows and curse each other.

C’est un trottoit (sidewalk). Thankfully these are nearly as wide as the boulevards. Poles separate pedestrians from speeding cars – unlike on the rues.

C’est les bicyclettes. For a few Euros, you can rent a bicycle from one of these kiosks and use it as much as you want until you park it at another kiosk. It’s becoming a popular way to commute. Strangely, bicycles use the boulevards, not the sidewalks. And the cyclists rarely wear helmets. Seems like an easy way to see the grim reaper. But we’ve yet to see an accident.

C’est un cafe. There’s one on nearly every corner, unless the other corners host a McDonalds, bank, bookstore or garden. Sometimes there are two or three more down the block. They seem to be full at more than dinner time. But I’ve yet to see an obese or overweight Parisien. And I’ve discovered the secret of their weight management system: Walk a lot (especially with a dog). Bicycle a lot. Smoke a lot.

C’est le style Parisien. You won’t see baggy hip-hop pants, overblown Nikes, hoodies or oversized sweatshirts. Not even a baseball cap, forward, backward or sideways. Young men wear casual-fit straight-legged jeans and khakis at just below the waist with dress shirts and jackets or long-sleeved pullovers. Women wear dresses, skirts or dressier pants and tops. Jewelry is non-existent or understated. Purses come as messenger bags or hobos of various sizes worn over one shoulder and to the front – to ward off pickpockets, I think. Everyone wears dress shoes. For women it’s flats, a small heel or sensible sandals. A few younger women wear Keds or Converse. No flip-flops or sneakers please – that’s how you spot the tourists.
Tomorrow — Your orientation to Paris!

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