Sunday, August 21, 2005

Paris


This will technically be my third time in France. In 2001, I went to Paris, Nimes, Nice and Monaco (not France, but I'll just consider it the same country). In 2003, I went to St. Malo and Bayeux, in the North of France. St. Malo is probably still one of my favourite locations in France. Currently, we're in the Champagne region.




On Saturday, we'll be taking a train to Bordeaux, renting a car from there and travelling around that area for about 10 days. Should be interesting...R and I don't usually fight...until we get in the car.

Some thoughts on France...

- I still can't figure out the utility of a separate room for the toilet. Except maybe to avoid toilet bacteria landing on your toothbrush.

- Asking a waiter to separate a bill in a restaurant is at least as hard as pulling teeth. At most, they'll take the total bill amount and divide it by the number of people at the table.

- A fair number of people in the service industry seem to behave like doing their job is a favour to customers. This does occur at home, but not as regularly (mind you, I don't use the service industry as often at home).

- Contrary to my expectations, most people don't switch to English when I speak to them. Woohoo!

- Wine is cheaper than pop....which must be a sign that I should just drink wine.

- Reality television here actually features REAL people, acting like REAL people. What a concept. I spent some time watching L'amour est dans le pré (not sure if the link will work). The translation is "love is in the meadow". I'm not sure if it's the equivalent to "love is in the air" or is "meadow" refers to the "contestants" being from smaller towns. The basic concept is that 4 singles (male or female) show up at a home. I guess their profiles are featured online. These people are from more rural areas, where it would be more difficult to find a partner. Once in the home, they receive letters from interested suitors. From these letter, they select those that they would like to meet. They then meet up with these people in Paris and "interview" (read: sit down and have an awkward chat) the suitors. But here's the interesting part. The singles and their suitors are REAL PEOPLE. They don't look like barbie/ken dolls. They're not all between the ages of 18-35 and they aren't suave. They aren't flown off to white sandy beaches or castles rented out for the evening for the couple. After meeting all of the suitors, two are selected. The suitors then travel to the single's house (usually a farm) and do normal farming type stuff. Although there is still the unrealistic component of living in someone's home for a week and the competition with another suitor, the people generally act like normal people. Like the one woman yesterday had two guys at her place and for dinner she warmed up pizza in the microwave.

I guess my point is that the contrast to North American reality tv was pretty stark. It's kind of sad because what is represented on reality television skews our ideas of what it means to be a real person. It's probably oversimplified for me to say this, but I do generally notice that at home people carry themselves more self-consciously. It almost seems like people in France are less concerned with how they "should be" and put more energy toward "just being". I know...I know...correlation does not equal causation. But - would a reality television program at home thrive if the premise was creating a love match between two 50 year olds? I think we're distracted with trying to obtain an unrealistic standard.

- It is possible for a nation to switch to reusable (cloth) grocery bags when stores do not make it convenient to receive plastic bags.

Here are some pictures (some are R's from before I arrive, some I took):

Moulin Rouge:

Notre Dame Cathedral:




Sacre Coeur:

Arc de Triomphe:

Sainte-Chapelle:


Louvre:


Alexandre-III Bridge:



Eiffel Tour:



National Assembly:


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