The first thing I want to say about the Parisians is that they are so very much nicer than their reputations paint them. I haven’t met a rude or haughty one yet and I’ve been accosting people all over the place asking for all sorts of stupid information and directions. As soon as they hear me abusing their language they immediately, but politely offer to speak English “if I prefer”. They seem to enjoy the practice.
The stuff about them smoking a lot, however, is extremely true. Smoking has just recently been banned in restaurants and other public places so you’ll always find a gaggle of them furiously finishing their cigarettes at the top steps to the Metro. Restaurants have spread out their sidewalk dining area to the maximum allowable level and providing outdoor heating and make-shift shelters. So, you might find a dozen tables crammed into the restaurant and two or more dozen crammed outside.
Paris seems to be love the cinema. On the Champs d’Elysee there are cinemas on pretty much every block, for instance. Movie posters are everywhere. I’ve never seen so many movie theatres.
Paris is also obsessed with Nutella. Poor XUP Jr. can’t find any peanut butter, but Nutella is sold in gallon jugs EVERYWHERE. Every cafe and restaurant offers at least one Nutella-based dish. Grocery store shelves have every imaginable size and variation of Nutella. The only peanut butter we’ve seen was in one grocery store and it was a tiny, dusty jar of Skippy. Skippy isn’t even real peanut butter since I think peanuts is the last ingredient on the long list.
And, the most quirky thing of all is the washrooms. For a country that loves to eat and for a city that has one of the most amazing sewer systems in the world, you’d think they would pay a little more attention to the “facilities”. But, no. They all just seem to be an afterthought – tucked away in some inaccessible corner. Most of the toilets have no seat. Which I guess is still better than the Turkish toilets some places still have, which are just a hole in the ground. I haven’t come across one of those yet, but I’ll do my best to find one before I leave.
The workings of the flush mechanism and the soap dispenser (if there even is one) or the air dryer are all very mysterious. Sometimes I can figure them out, sometimes not. No two are the same. It’s very adventurous to pee in Paris.
They do have the outdoor magic toilets, too, where you get 20 minutes and then the whole thing washes itself. I’ve tried to use them twice, but both times the one I was close to was out of service.
I can’t believe our visit is more than half over already. We’ve walked our feet off. For once we will look forward to sitting immobile in an airplane seat for 7 hours.
As Frenchless in France Linda commented yesterday, we met up with her at Montmartre the other day, which was wonderful. She seems so dreamy and introspective on her blog, but is so bubbly and exuberant in real life. Either way, she’s great. And it was good to get some insider tips. She showed us the secret doorknobs on the St. Pierre church that we had to rub for a year of good luck.
Also, as Linda mentioned the weather has been beautiful – sunny and warm – so we haven’t been doing too much inside stuff. It looks a bit cloudier today, so the plan is to head for the Louvre and see how long the lines are.