Sunday, October 30, 2011

I Love Paris In The Springtime, I Love Paris In The Fall

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Have you ever heard someone complain about Paris? Traffic and flat landscape, other than Montmartre aside,  most people become enchanted by the City of Light. It’s been that way for me since my first visit. I was nervous to go, having heard that Parisians were rude and disliked Americans. I found the simple act of attempting to say one word in their language was enough to warm what I expected to be a chilly encounter. Parisians like most people are open to politeness and a show of respect and react very positively if you just give them the chance. Address everyone as madam and monsieur even if they’re wearing jeans, because the French are formal in their dealings with strangers, no matter how casual they appear. The American “friendly puppy” casualness is foreign to them and seems insincere. If you don’t believe me, make an observation the next time an American asks “How are you?” We generally do not expect any answer other than “fine”. How many times have you noticed the person asking that question appearing distracted after the first 3 seconds, if you choose to respond with more than one word? For now, let’s just take a look at some of the interesting places this city has to offer its visitors.
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Is there anyone who can’t identify Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, The River Seine, Arc de Triomphe, Champs Elysees or the Louvre?
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How about the Pantheon, the Tuileries Gardens, the Place De La Concorde, the Place de la Contrescarpe, one of the great train stations Gare De Lyon (your gateway to Italy), or one of the grand cafes like Le Deux Magots? These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to iconic Paris.
There are so many reasons to love this place, even McDonald’s could draw me in and I’m emphatic about never going to American businesses when traveling. Take a look at how they would make me reconsider my point of view. Think we could use some of these at home? I do.
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Every corner seems to have a boulangerie, brasserie, wine bar or café and if not, then an open air market is close by one or two days per week. If that’s not enough, there are many “shopping streets” in each neighborhood that provide all the fresh food one could want, as well as take out meals.
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Speaking of open air markets, Paris is rich with them and they play a great part in strengthening the fabric of their society. You see neighbors greeting one another amidst the stalls or on the fringes. Everyone seems to know the vendors by name. The French do not have small refrigerators because they take less energy or are less expensive, they choose them because they want fresh, more nutritious food. And it’s easily available through these farmer’s markets. The French have made me very happy to participate in them at home. Here is a very brief photo essay of just three of the larger markets. I  intend  on seeing all of them before I’m through.
What about the fashion that Paris is so famous for producing? It’s everywhere, but there are several streets with small boutiques that make window shopping an activity worth pursuing.
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Of course, Paris also has very famous department stores and some of them are worth a visit just to have lunch. Galleries Lafayette offers a bird’s eye view of the city with your entrée. Bon Marche has an entire store devoted to food and you can pick up some nice gifts to bring home to friends who like to cook. 

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