Thursday, October 26, 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 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.

(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.

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