Wednesday, 23 February 2011

La vie Parisienne

This is the sort of image I imagine when I think of 'la vie Parisienne'

Quelques remarques
about my day in Paris:

1. I caught what was clearly the commuter train (8am direct TGV Dijon-Paris) so as you can imagine it was rammed, so people clearly sat wherever they could, so it caused much amusement watching people play musical chairs as people with reserved seats asked people who had sat wherever to move. I had my own amusement when a man asked me:
- Excusez moi, madame, vous avez quelle place?
(Excuse me, madame, what seat number are you ?)
- Attends (the informal of ‘wait’, which I very quickly corrected to the formal version of ‘wait’, attendez, when I speak French its normally with people my own age so I have become a bit out of practice at using the formal version of imperatives!). Moi, j’ai 24
- Alors, on a un problème, vous avez voiture 4, place 24 et moi, j’ai voiture 4, place 24
(Well then, we have a problem, you are carriage 4, seat 24 and I am carriage 4, seat 24.)
- Oui, désolée, mais, vous avez un billet pour demain
(Yes, sorry, but you have a ticket for tomorrow.)
- Oh, mince !
(A very polite way of expressing his annoyance at the situation.)

I imagined that he was most likely going to Paris for a one day business meeting so I imagined him ringing the office to make out like it was their fault that he was a day early so wangling a new return train ticket and a night in a hotel. Then thinking, “well, why not, I’ve got the day in Paris, might as well make use of it” and then only after an morning of sightseeing and an afternoon of watching porn on the hotel’s free cable would he ring his wife to apologise profusely that he won’t be tucking up little Jean-Pierre in bed tonight but that he will make it up to Jean-Pierre by bringing back a keyring of the Eiffel Tower and up to her by showing her his new ideas for the bedroom after an afternoon of porn watching! (Such as the way in a French marriage, arguments are solved by sex!)

2. I like my American friends, I like lots of American people, but on the whole I hate American tourists!
As i sat in a Parisian cafe enjoying my book and a glass of Orangina (easily the most delicious fizzy drink ever!) I couldn’t help listening to the conversation between 3 American tourists that was happening on the table next to me.
First of all they had no idea what a pain au chocolat, crème caramel, éclair or tarte tatin were, granted these are French patisseries, but they are available everywhere and just about everyone knows what they are, even Microsoft Word English (U.K.) knows (they haven’t been underlined with a red line telling me they’re not words.)
Then they asked (in English of course) for a coffee. Now, of course, tourists ordering a coffee in France always cause amusement for the French because what most tourists ask for is a café au lait. Makes perfect sense right, we all learnt at school that ‘milky coffee’ in French is café au lait (and most British/American tourists want a milky coffee), right? Wrong! Café au lait is indeed a milky coffee in French but it’s the big milky coffee the French drink out of a bowl for breakfast, and breakfast only! A normal, day time, milk coffee is a café crème. But its fine, as a tourist you can order a café au lait in the middle of the day and get a café crème because the French waitress knows you’re a tourist but and will forgive you (or at least just laugh at you in her head.) But, no! These American tourists ordered a “coffee”, for fuck sakes! It’s not that hard to say café! At least make some bloody effort, you are in France after all!
Then the final straw was when they asked the waitress (in English, of course) “where is the Moulin Rouge?” You have a map in front of you, you know it’s in the Montmartre/Pigalle region (or at least you should – you’ve seen the film, haven’t you?), so get out your map and work out, all by yourself, the nearest metro stop! Don’t disturb the poor waitress by asking such an embarrassing question you might as well be wearing a neon flashing light that says “I am a tourist and I don’t know the first thing about France or the French.”
Now, perhaps, I’m being a little harsh here, obviously I am of the luxury of being able to speak French and knowing a fair bit about France but that doesn’t stop me finding complete ignorance and utter lack of trying to fit in to a foreign country annoying!

3. The Pompidou Centre and the Towers of the Notre Dame are really cool things to do and 2 things I hadn’t done in Paris before (pshhh, look at me, look who’s the tourist now!)

4. If you want really good hot chocolate (and I mean really good!) go to Maison du Chocolat on Boulevard de la Madeline.

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