David Louis Edelman David Louis Edelman

My Trip to France (Part 2: The Wrath of Cannes)

Man, this is a beautiful city. This is Paris, to be precise. Across the street from the Louvre, to be more precise (as my first entry indicated).

Stained glass in the Sainte Chapelle chapelDuring our week here, we’ve seen the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Chartres Cathedral, the Musée d’Orsey, the Musée Cluny, Sacré Couer, and Sainte Chapelle. (See the photo of the stained glass in Sainte Chapelle to the left.) Plus we’ve taken a boat tour of the Seine, bummed around Montmartre, eaten lots of cheese and pastries, drunken lots of wine, and played a few games of Scrabble. (Someone please back me up on this… “financee” is a word, isn’t it? Isn’t it??!?)

Some more of my (remarkably obvious) observations about the French:

1. Slow pace. The French don’t like to hurry. I knew this before I arrived, and was prepared for it. But what I wasn’t prepared for was that the French really really don’t like to hurry. We’ve had plenty of three-course meals that took two and a half hours. When we reached the front of the line for Saint Chapelle, it took an astounding three minutes for the woman behind the counter to swipe my credit card and hand us a pair of tickets. I couldn’t help but wonder if French businesses move at this pace as well. Are French suppliers losing bids because their salespeople take too long to submit their proposals? While one can’t always move at the frenetic pace of modern America (go go go go go!), one wonders how long before this attitude seriously bites France in the ass.

2. Gay pride. I’ve seen a number of openly gay couples walking around holding hands as if it were the most natural thing in the world. Which it is, for them, or at least it should be. Perhaps there’s a whole culture of homophobia that I’m not aware of — and, of course, one can only imagine what the attitudes are like in rural areas of France — but on the surface of things French culture seems remarkably open and tolerant of differences in sexual orientation.

I.M. Pei's glass pyramid in the courtyard of the Louvre3. The clash between the old and new. Periodically the French like to take something old (say, the Louvres, built in the 12th century) and plunk something shocking and new down in the middle of it (say, I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid, which has been sitting in the courtyard of the Louvres since 1989 — see the photo to the right). It all seems shockingly progressive for a country that’s so fiercely protective of its slowly dying language.

4. Racial harmony. America likes to flaunt its supposed racial equality, but we all know that the seams in the racial patchwork quilt are visible and fraying. Here in France, however, you can find black, white, and yellow commingling in relative harmony, or so it seemed to me. In downtown Washington, you often see groups of black and white people walking in racially balkanized groups, as if gathered together for protection. In downtown Paris, whites and blacks all seemed to jumble together without a trace of self-consciousness.

5. …Except for the Middle Easterners. Take everything I just said about racial harmony and nix it where people from the Middle East are concerned. Though nobody says so, here in Paris they feel like second-class citizens. You routinely see Middle Easterners doing the menial service jobs — washing the dishes, picking up the trash, sweeping the floors — and as a result, they seem to band together in racially balkanized groups, as if gathered together for protection.

I’m back in Washington, DC later this afternoon, after which this blog will continue on its normal course of shameless self-promotion, humorous introspection, and sour grumbling about the state of the world.

Watch this space for a link to an as-yet-inexistent Flickr feed of photos from my trip to France. (Update: The Flickr photo set is up. Also check out the panoramic pic from the balcony of our apartment.)

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  1. Brook on August 16, 2008 at 1:44 pm  Chain link

    Great, succinct tidbits. Your writing style exposes your fearlessness in life. Love it.

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