A Travellerspoint blog

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 14: Ex-pats, Moose Milk, & George Bush

Paris is an international city, much like New York. It's hard to find a native New Yorker in Manhattan and the same is somewhat true in Paris. I was invited by an American woman I met on a recent trip to Cuba to a Canadian levee to celebrate the New Year. She and her husband, who is Canadian, hosted the gathering at their apartment in Paris where they have lived for almost two years. The levee is a New Year tradition in Canada, he explained. So is slogging down some Moose Milk. Moose Milk is similar to eggnog. Neither have any eggs, both are milk-based and doused liberally with alcohol. In the case of Moose Milk (at least this version of it, there were at least three types of alcohol I saw being sloshed into the punch bowl: kahlua, Bailey's, and whiskey. No moose is harmed in the making of this drink.

The apartment has a corner view and a wrap-around terrace. On one side, there was a view of Notre Dame which is across the street. From the other terrace there is a view of the Seine (and a GIANT Coca Cola sign, but nothing is perfect).

The group of around 40 ex-pats were mostly American, but there was a couple from New Zealand, a woman who immigrated from India and works as a translator, and a couple from Argentina. The couple from New Zealand has lived here in Paris for thirty years. I also met three people from my home state of NJ and a woman from Pennsylvania. She left the US the day George Bush got re-elected and hasn't been back since. Which reminded me that the day he was re-elected I landed in Rome. On my taxi ride from the airport my driver asked me if I was American. Since Iraq was smoldering at the time and Americans were not beloved in Europe, I hesitated before I admitted I was. He turned and looked at me over his shoulder and said, "What is wrong with your people? Have they lost their minds electing this man again?" I had no appropriate response.

The conversations at the levee were lively and diverse. There was talk about the current terror situation in France, naturally, and of the disharmony world-wide. But there was also talk about food and travel; two of my favorite topics. I was encouraged to go to Sweden, particularly Stockholm in spring or summer. I was warned not to go in winter if I crave daylight since it is fleeting. Apparently, things there are so bad that there are huts scattered throughout the streets. Inside, you can sit on benches under lamps that simulate sunshine for those people, like me, who fall into seasonal slumps due to lack of daylight.

But terror is never far away in Paris. When I entered the apartment, there had been fifty or so Ukrainian protestors across the street. By the time I left, thirty huge police vans were sitting out front, sirens and lights blasting. The protesters were gone. I don't know if they were arrested or just fled. Since the attack at Charlie Hebdo, every time you hear sirens, people stop and look around. It reminds me of New York after 9/11. For a long, long time we all stopped and watched planes as they flew overhead. A plane over NYC was never going to be just a plane ever again.

Posted by teethetrav 01:20 Archived in France Tagged stockholm paris france sweden iraq 9/11 terror charlie_hebdo canadian_levee moose_milk ex-pats_in_paris george_bush Comments (0)

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 13: Baguettes and Black Coats

I am learning how to become a baguette person. Parisians carry a baguette early in the morning for breakfast, or on their way home after work when they pick one up for their evening meal. There are specific strategies to carrying your baguette. Some choose to carry them sticking up out of their backpack. Since a baguette is quite tall, depending on the height of your backpack, I've noted that those with smaller backpacks break their baguette in two pieces. I don't approve of or recommend this at all. Because the French do not use any preservatives, their pastries and breads go stale almost as soon as they hit the air. Best to buy them warm, hurry home, and eat them immediately. A few hours later, any bread which remains is good only for bread crumbs. So breaking them in two renders them stale soon after the breakage. Even if you don't break the baguette, a backpack is a dangerous strategy. I worry that someone might touch it as it sticks up in the air, and I tend to be germphobic. But, since I am not a backpack person, I don't have to worry.

A second popular means of transport is to put your bread in your cloth bag which you bring to the market. The baguette will stick up out of the bag, as well, so you have to be careful that it doesn't topple over and fall out. All in all, I've used this strategy with success.
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Own of my personal favorite methods is to eat and walk. Keeping the baguette wrapped in its paper wrappage, you break off the end piece and eat as you travel. I've done this, but it leaves you perpetually covered in crumbs. Since EVERYONE in Paris wears a black coat (myself included), crumbs on black is not a good look.
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The crumbs are from the crust, which is, in part, the appeal of the French baguette. The inside is more airholes than actual bread, which is probably why the French don't get fat. There is some math and science behind this. If the ratio of hole to dough is greater than weight of the baguette, calories don't count. It's a proven theorem. Look it up.

Last, but not to be dismissed lightly, is the under-your-arm carry. This frees your hands for other activities, like paying for your wine to go with your baguette and finding your keys so you can get into your apartment to indulge in your still warm baguette.

Posted by teethetrav 03:25 Archived in France Tagged paris france baguette black_coats Comments (0)

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 12: Love, Sephora, & Perfume in Paris

Finding perfume is a lot like falling in love. A scent strikes you and you just know it's one you can connect with and wear for a very long time. Buying a new perfume was on my "perhaps" Paris list. "Perhaps" because it is never a sure thing you will find the right one. Kind of like online dating. How many dates would you have to go to find someone you have chemistry and compatibility with? That's how I am with perfume. I find very few that I like; fewer that I love. And if I'm going to wear a scent, I need to love it.

I thought my search for perfume would bring me back to Sephora; the perfume and make-up mecca of Paris. In 1999 I entered Sephora for the first time. The flagship, original store was and is on the Champs-Elysees. I remember the experience as clearly as, well....any other significant first. The smell, the allure, the staff all dressed in black (what else?), and rows and rows of perfume, make-up, lotions and potions. I spent hours trying on perfumes, which you spray on tiny pieces of cardboard instead of your skin, so as to not confuse the scents. Finally, when the selection gets narrowed to a mere two, it's time for a spritz. One on each wrist. Then, you wait for the alchemy to take place. Perfumes smell differently on your body and change as they interact with your own chemistry. I love science. Especially when it's intertwined with magic.

A year or so after losing my virginity to Sephora in Paris, I discovered there was a New York City Sephora on Fifth Avenue near Rockefeller Center. That one too, was bliss. Sadly, it has since closed. But now Sephora is ubiquitous. It is even in Penny's department store. Really.

Anyway, I planned to reunite with the Champs Sephora at some point during this trip, specifically to see if I could find a new love. But love is funny. Sometimes it finds you when you least expect it. Yesterday while walking through St. Germaine, a petite table holding a single, elegant bottle suddenly called to me. Next to the bottle were those tiny pieces of cardboard. "Try me," the bottle whispered. Feeling a bit like Alice through the looking glass, I sprayed, smelled, and waited. Suddenly, a man appeared in the doorway. He spoke in French, a bit too quickly for me to catch what he said.

"Je parle Francaise, un peu," I said. He smiled. "Ah! In English, then. Give me your wrist." As he gently misted my wrist, I knew I was lost. The fragrance was intoxicating. It was all there. Light, charm, elegance, familiar yet at the same time new, a suggestion of gardenias on a summer night, slightly romantic with a hint of sexy. It was love. It was Only for Her by Hayari-Parfums.

"I'll take it," I said, without even asking the price.
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Posted by teethetrav 08:19 Archived in France Tagged paris france love nyc champs_élysées perfume rockefeller_center st._germaine hayari-parfums penny's Comments (0)

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 11: Paris at Night by Boat

As touristy as it may seem, a bateau down the Seine en nuit is something everyone should experience in order to fully appreciate the beauty of Paris. Paris is unquestionably one of the most spectacularly beautiful cities in the world. Paris at night is indescribable. Even in winter. From the water, at night, lit in all its glory, you can see a different Paris. Words do not do it justice.
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Before setting off on the boat, I wandered through St Germaine. I am on a mission to find the perfect Paris neighborhood. While sauntering through the lovely streets of St. Germaine, I found yet another Louis Vuitton store. As if I didn't have enough decisions to make regarding LV, a new Louis has now appeared on the scene. Poppy has arrived. She is a limited edition and is just perfect. She is, however, 500 euros more than my previous temptation; the salmon-trimmed beauty known in Paris as lichee. Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. I may be able to rationalize spending more. The euro has dropped a penny a day since I've arrived. Vive la dollar.

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Stay tuned.

Posted by teethetrav 14:27 Archived in France Tagged night boat paris france ride poppy eiffel_tower seine louis_vuitton Comments (0)

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 10: Paris is NOT Manhattan

Manhattan is still the heart of NYC in spite of the buzz about Williamsburg, and Brooklyn in general, being the new Manhattan. Manhattan is still Manhattan; the true NY. Paris and New York have much in common. They are both sophisticated, cultured, and fashion conscious. Although Paris is similar to NYC in many ways, it has several glaring differences. I will list a few.
1. Dog poop. Really, people. Parisians love their dogs. They bring them everywhere and no one minds. Restaurants accept them, they wait patiently outside the patisserie while their owner buys a daily baguette, and they walk leashlessly through parks. Fine. I too am a dog lover. But I am not a dog poop lover, especially when I step in it. In Paris, it's hard to avoid. No one scoops the poop. You must therefore walk eyes down trying to avoid the mess.
2. Safety codes are rather lax. Third world country lax. My apartment, for example, has more extension cords than the boulanger has croissants. It also has three space heaters. Both seem to be common throughout Paris.
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The elevator fits one person. Two if you are very intimate.
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3. Police ignore scam artists. Scams are everywhere. But here I've seen police walk past scam artists and not even tell them to move on. Clearly, the police in Paris have bigger poisson to fry but I guess the broken windows philosophy doesn't hold up here at all. The most common scams are the string men who tie a string bracelet to your wrist, then demand you buy it. Or the woman on the street waving a piece a paper in your face demanding you sign a petition. If you do, she shows you that what you signed means you owe her ten euros.
4. Smoking is still a Parisian pastime. One of the last western countries to ban smoking in public buildings, bars, and restaurants, Parisians still love their ciggies. They sit outside at cafes in the cold, in the rain, bundled and lighting up.
5. But as much as I love NYC, you can't get these views of le Tour Eiffel or Sacre Couer in Manhattan. There are so many differences between NYC and Paris. Vive le difference.

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Posted by teethetrav 07:08 Archived in France Tagged paris france dogs nyc manhattan williamsburg brooklyn safety le_tour_eiffel dog_poop poop sacre_couer scams vive_le_difference Comments (0)

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