Parisienne Top Ten (Plus One).

(in no particular order):

1. When you stop to take pictures of buildings and monuments, Parisian passersby actually halt, on either side of your shot, until they see you lower your camera, content with your photo. They’re so respectful of their own culture and your admiration of it that they pause for you. Those pauses resulted in my ability to get shots like this:

basilique du sacre coeur

basilique du sacre coeur

i loved these little guys, over the doorways of some seemingly important louvre-adjacent building.

i loved these little guys, over the doorways of some seemingly important louvre-adjacent building.

2. Parisians seem to love our president. Whenever someone inquired about our nationality, they’d exclaim, “Barack Obama!” with these huge, impressed grins. One particularly wistful boy named Sam, who was the waiter at our favorite eatery on the last night of our stay, said his dream is to come to America and pursue his professional boxing dreams. He ran down a list of Paris’s flaws, scoffed at his president Nicolas Sarkozy, and ended his merry diatribe with, “I prefer your Barack Obama.”

Here were a few places where our fine commander-in-chief’s likeness appeared:

at librairie de abbesses

at librairie de abbesses

i'm really not sure where i encountered this poster. it was in a cafe window, but i can't recall the street or neighborhood.

i'm really not sure where i encountered this poster. it was in a cafe window, but i can't recall the street or neighborhood.

Even the souvenir shops sold Obama trinkets:

at a souvenir shop circa st. michel fountain

at a souvenir shop circa st. michel fountain

at the same shop. this one didn't come out as well, but you get the idea, right? note the iconic barack-whispering-and-michelle-smiling, enrapt shot on a few of these keychains.

at the same shop. this one didn't come out as well, but you get the idea, right? note the iconic barack-whispering-and-michelle-smiling, enrapt shot on a few of these keychains.

3. Patisseries, cheese, wine. I was looking forward to all three and none disappointed.

the best frites i ate on my trip were at l'olivier (but their shout-out comes later).

the best frites i ate on my trip were at l'olivier (but their shout-out comes later).

one of two cheese plates i ate at l'olivier. it had four cheeses, including gruyere. amazing.

one of two cheese plates i ate at l'olivier. it had four cheeses, including gruyere. amazing.

4. Montmarte.

up and up and up toward the butte montmarte

up and up and up toward the butte montmarte

5. Pere Lachaise cemetery.

metropolitan subway sign.

metropolitan subway sign.

i think, when i die, i want this stone. it belonged to sociologist mattei dogan.

i think, when i die, i want this stone. it belonged to sociologist mattei dogan.

i thought this was beautiful. tombstones with color are so rare.

i thought this was beautiful. tombstones with color are so rare.

if i lived in paris, i'd spend a *ton* of time at pere lachaise. it was so serene.

if i lived in paris, i'd spend a *ton* of time at pere lachaise. it was so serene.

the grave of french guianan singer edith lefel.

the grave of french guianan singer edith lefel.

my exclamation of "proust!" upon stumbling onto this icon's final resting place prompted an argument with my boyfriend. i was geeked; he was startled.

my exclamation of "proust!" upon stumbling onto this icon's final resting place prompted an argument with my boyfriend. i was geeked; he was startled.

the supremely popular grave of oscar wilde.

the supremely popular grave of oscar wilde.

honore de balzac.

honore de balzac.

charlie chaplin (and family).

charlie chaplin (and family).

Two regrets: not looking harder for Richard Wright’s space and not prioritizing Edith Piaf.

6. L’Olivier.

at the end of each too-short, super-exhausting day, we ate at the restaurant two doors down from the hotel. l'olivier's. for the first trips, we had the same waiter. he served *everyone.* it seemed like a neighborhood spot, with regulars, and the regulars liked us. our server was amazing. we tried to say goodbye to him on our last day, but it was his day off. instead we met the aforementioned boxer/waiter, sam, who was equally warm and wonderful. i highly recommend l'olivier's.

at the end of each too-short, super-exhausting day, we ate at the restaurant two doors down from the hotel. l'olivier's. for the first trips, we had the same waiter. he served *everyone.* it seemed like a neighborhood spot, with regulars, and the regulars liked us. our server was amazing. we tried to say goodbye to him on our last day, but it was his day off. instead we met the aforementioned boxer/waiter, sam, who was equally warm and wonderful. i highly recommend l'olivier's.

the waiters gave us free mint tea, twice. i've only had mint tea that good one other time in life.

the waiters gave us free mint tea, twice. i've only had mint tea that good one other time in life.

7. Quality Hotel Paris Orleans.

i loved our hotel.

i loved our hotel.

i read at least fifteen visitor reviews on tripadvisor before booking it.

i read at least fifteen visitor reviews on tripadvisor before booking it.

the english-speaking staff were accommodating and friendly.

the english-speaking staff were accommodating and friendly.

and, most awesomely of all, these lamps were in the lobby.

and, most awesomely of all, these lamps were in the lobby.

love, love, love.

love, love, love.

8. The Latin Quarter.

one word: wow.

one word: wow.

9. The smile. Admittedly, it’s dreadfully awkward and embarrassing to visit a country without knowing its language. (Well, sometimes. See #10.) And after dozens of “Bonjour”s, “Bonsoirs,” “c’est combien?”s, and the biggie: “Parlez-vous anglais?,” you’re kind of mortified. But whenever we did the “parlez-vous anglais?” thing, the people would answer, “a little bit” or “of course,” which alleviated tensions–especially since they didn’t seem particularly scornful about it.

That said, there were moments when words were unnecessary (my favorite moments): on trains, on streets, in restaurants… and during those moments, I’d look up to find someone offering a faint smile.

On our way to Pere Lachaise, for instance, I wrote my mother and grandmother a postcard. I filled it with purple ink, every centimeter of available space. I’m sure my face bore a look of intense concentration. I wanted to make sure not to smudge the ink, to do justice to the trip itself, and make sure my penmanship wasn’t too sorely affected by the bump and jolt of the train car.

When I finished, I grinned down at my achievement: a smudgeless, legible postcard, my very first mailing from another country. When I lifted my head, I was still grinning and so was the lady sitting across from me, very faintly. She seemed to be saying, “Aw. Isn’t that quaint?”

You can intuit a wealth of info from nonverbal communication in France, and it’s awesome.

10. Not speaking the language. I know it’s egregious to enter a country unable to communicate with its citizens, but there’s also something so freeing about it–at least for the first few days. There’s constant conversation, no matter where you are and all the while, you feel like you’re walking under the dry arc of a waterfall. You’re under something at once beautiful and incomprehensible. You are unplugged from a society and without obligation to it. You miss no one and long for nothing. It’s really an indefinable sensation. I love not talking, though, so if you’re social, learn some French before you go.

11. Finally? The most quintessential of all Parisian experiences: the Metro.

i have no idea what this says, but i recognized the american names/shout-outs and loved the penmanship.

i have no idea what this says, but i recognized the famous names/shout-outs (there's mention of albert einstein and charlie parker) and loved the penmanship.

I didn’t get lost in the Paris subway system *once.* As a non-driver, I really appreciated how frequently the trains arrived and how logical the train lines were. I felt like there wasn’t a single arrondissement that wasn’t accessible via metro and that’s simply unheard of in most subway systems. There’s always some area you just can’t quite reach on the train. Not so here, it appeared. I was grateful and highly impressed.

Stay tuned for more. There are at least two other Paris-related blog entries on the way….

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4 thoughts on “Parisienne Top Ten (Plus One).

  1. tankie says:

    regarding point #1: i don’t think it’s b/c “they’re so respectful of their own culture and your admiration of it that they pause for you” at all. it’s just being polite and courteous and living a less rapid existence. it’s just kind to give someone 2 seconds of your day to allow them a shot! πŸ™‚

    and PELFORTH! that was my staple beer when i was living there. i liked the amber one the best.

    i’m glad i’m not the only one who loves cemeteries. i used to go visit random countryside ones on my bike expeditions. πŸ™‚ french graveyards are very different to british ones. i think it might be the catholic thing.

  2. slb says:

    i think you’re right, tank. πŸ™‚

    i’ve often heard paris compared to nyc, but it really wasn’t like nyc at all. even their subway system, frowsy and crowded as it is, still seemed mellower and less hurried/congested than anything i’ve experienced here.

    pelforth was tasty. πŸ™‚

  3. G says:

    Dorothy’s gallery is near Bastille, most of the window advertising happened in that neighborhood, so I’d wager you saw it in that quartier. Love your posts!

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