Sunday, January 26, 2014

23 Things that scare Parisians to death

This week, a funny list has been making the rounds online, and as luck would have it, it was in French. Dommage

I wanted my readers to be able to enjoy it too, so I have prepared a free translation. You're welcome!

The article is titled: "23 Things that Scare Parisians.Do not miss the original story, here: The illustrations are excellent.

Several remarks come to mind when I look at the list. 

  • Things have not changed that much in Paris since I left, in 1996. 

  • Le Parisien, (the Parisian,) is defined as a person living in "Paris intra-muros," i.e. in downtown Paris, within the border created by le périphérique, (the beltway.) You may live right outside le périphérique. If you do, you are not a true Parisian. You have become un banlieusard, (a commuter, living in suburbia,) and that, to a true Parisian, is only slightly better, than being un provincial (someone living outside the French capital.) 

Paris Intra-Muros (in dark blue on the map,) includes
two parks: Le Bois de Boulogne, and le Bois de Vincennes

  • A large part of Parisian life revolves around the [excellent] public transportation system and le Métro (the subway.) 

... but les Abbesses métro station is nowhere near le Châtelet stop!

Are you ready? Here is my best attempt at a translation... 

23 Things that Scare Parisians
(In Paris, you risk your life every day)

French article with h.i.l.a.r.i.o.u.s. illustrations

1. Falling down the Metro stairs and dying.

2. Cell phone theft.

3. A strike in the Paris transportation system.

4. Having to act as a tour guide for tourist friends and splitting your day between the Eiffel Tower and Mona Lisa.

5. Getting stuck in a street demonstration.

6. La Bastille square, after a street demonstration (Ed.: Most mass demonstrations end up there, a lively yet horrendous sight.) 

7. Les Grands Boulevards, on a Saturday before Christmas, or during the bi-annual sale season (Ed.: Major Parisian department stores are located near les Grands Boulevards, in the Opéra Garnier neighborhood.) 

8. La rue de Lappe, every evening (Ed.: A small, cobbled street in la Bastille neighborhood, well-known for its nightlife.) 

9. Getting stuck in the subway between two stops for over two minutes with no explanation, and imagining your own painful and inevitable demise. 

10. Walking alone at night in a deserted subway corridor... and disappearing.

11. To be reduced to using one of these one day (Ed.: Photo of a Sanisette, a self-contained, self-cleaning, unisex public toilet in a Paris street.) 

12. Transferring from les Halles métro station to le Châtelet RER stop (Ed.: A logistical nightmare, as these are two of Paris' busiest stations, with mile-long corridors.) 

13. Having the irrepressible urge to use the bathroom while being in the subway.

14. Pigeons inside train stations.

15. Actually, any contact with a pigeon.

16. Having to go to a party on the other bank. 

17. Missing the last subway.

18. ... and having to ride the Noctilien (Ed.: Night bus service for Paris and the suburbs.) 

19. Rats and other disgusting creatures living inside the subway system.

20. Having to ride the RER train (Ed.: Faster, but more intimidating than the Métro, with mile-long corridors.) 

21. Crossing the beltway and heading for the unknown... (Ed.: See my introductory comment about "true Parisians.") 

22. Being pushed on the subway tracks by a lunatic.

23. Paris real estate prices! (Ed.: Photo of a 97 square-foot studio, with a $600 rent.) 

What did you think? Did you like it? I bet New Yorkers could relate to some of these, don't you?

It is time to wrap up, but before I go, I just want to appeal to your better nature. You see, living in Paris involves a lot more than sitting at a café terrace and watching the world go by; nibbling Pierre Hermé macarons; getting Americanized chez McDo or at trendy food trucks. Living in Paris can be stressful. Danger lurks, whether real or imagined. There is no time to smile; or smell the Sanisette... uh... the roses. Living in Paris is serious business, and only true Parisians can put up with that much pressure. The rest of us... amateurs. We can only hope to watch and learn.

A bientôt.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hollywood… You make me smile!

Emma Thompson, Golden Globes 2014
The "Louboutin-Martini" speech

The Hollywood award season is underway, and it will culminate on Sunday March 2, with the 86th Academy Awards. For us movie fans, it is a fun time of year. 

Some of us get excited about favorite movies; actors and actresses. Others tune in, so they can gawk at designer-clad celebrities, walking down the Red Carpet. 

We watch - and occasionally cringe -  as TV hosts greet famous guests, pouring out of black limousines. 

During the show (it never seems to end on time,) we all yawn at overdrawn speeches; the endless list of "Thank you's;" or the disingenuous declarations: "I did not expect this. I did not prepare a speech…" (You have been nominated. Isn't it part of your job to prepare a speech?)

We watch the prestigious audience laugh nervously at the host's jokes. Some good; some awkward; some plain mean. 

We endure commercial breaks. And long musical numbers. 

We reminisce about Old Hollywood glamour. Grace, and Audrey. Rita. Katharine. Liz. Never mind that we are too young to actually remember the good old days. The well-oiled Hollywood machine has conditioned us for years. These glamorous stars are part of our lives; almost part of the family.

Grace and Audrey, presenters at the 1956 Academy Awards...

But the good old days are gone. Welcome to the time of hyperactive social media and unbridled paparazzi power! Glamour has faded, replaced by gossip; unflattering photos of celebrities on their coffee runs (Can you picture Grace Kelly toting around her tall, non-fat latte in a Starbucks paper cup?) -- There are so many celebrities (famous for being famous,) and so few artists, it seems. So be it. Times change. 

Still, as a long-time movie fan, I am grateful for movie stars, and the stories they tell. I see talent, and on rare occasions, I see grace. I still dream; laugh and cry with them. 

This week, as I browsed online, I spotted a few shots of my favorite actors and actresses. And they made me smile. I hope you enjoy them, as much as I did. 

Long live le cinéma. Long live Hollywood. This French Girl, for one, will keep watching.

Les complices. Accomplices. Meryl Streep. Julia Roberts. And you thought your family was dysfunctional. If you have not seen them (and the rest of the stellar cast) in August: Osage County, you are missing something. Good friends or consummate professionals promoting a movie? Does it matter? 

The Blues Brothers had nothing on these two sisters!

And talking about friends…

Meryl Streep and Emma Thompson

Emma is one talented lady, (Saving Mr Banks, anyone?) and from what I hear, a fun broad. A good mom too.

Emma and "Mini-Me" daughter Gaia

All right. I admit it. Most of my favorite ladies are over 40. or 50. Et alors? So what? 

Sandra, so happy to see you laugh.
Please don't do anything to your beautiful face!

Of course, I do not forget les Boys. How could I ever forget les Boys?

Look at these two handsome fellows. Real men take their moms to Award shows.

I like them just fine too when their moms are not around…

Ben, Ben, Ben… Bradley, Bradley, Bradley...

You clean up nice, Colin F.

Yes, thank you, movie stars. You can walk around holding a Starbucks paper cup; or look sweaty when you leave the gym; wear no make up as you get their groceries. We like to think you are just like us, professionals; friends; lovers; mothers and fathers…

Cate Blanchett and her two leading men
Critics Choice Awards, January 2014

… but the truth is, you are not . You have that little extra something; the ability to inspire and captivate; the power to make us dream. And that is a good thing.

A bientôt. 

I used to think as I looked out on the Hollywood night, 'There must be thousands of girls sitting alone like me dreaming of being a movie star.' But I am not going to worry about them. I'm dreaming the hardest.

-- Marilyn Monroe

Sunday, January 12, 2014

New Yorkers and Parisians: So different, yet so alike...

So different, yet so alike

Paris. New York. Two of the world's most visited, most exciting cities. 
Paris. New York. Everyone has an opinion about them, even if they have never been.
Parisians. New Yorkers. Everyone has an opinion about them, even if they have never met them.

This week, I saw a funny little video online, "Johnny T's New York City Tourist Tips." 

As a longtime fan of the City that Never Sleeps, I smiled often while watching it. Then I realized that many of Johnny T's travel tips could also apply to Paris, (and to other big cities around the world.) After reading the comments left by readers on where the video was released last December, I was sure of it.

I can explain, but first, let's watch the 4-minute clip together, shall we? Meet Johnny T, New Yorker. This hilarious puppet will teach you how to be the perfect New York City tourist...

See what I mean? Johnny T, it is obvious, loves his city. And he claims he loves tourists too, hence the travel tips, so everyone gets along. Video (and article) highlights:

1. Johnny T. is a frog, dressed in a red track suit. 

Johnny T.'s Parisian cousin would be a green frog named Jean, and he would wear an Agnès B. grey suit, accessorized with a Pierre Cardin man bag.

2. Johnny T. is passionate about pizza.

He knows all the best pizza joints in New York city, past and present.

Jean knows the best boulangeries in Paris. He would not consider buying his daily baguette and croissants anywhere else.

New York vs. Paris (Vahram Muratyan)

3. Are New Yorkers rude to tourists?

Johnny T. does not think so. He claims they are nice and helpful to out of town visitors. 

In the Comment section, a reader, Bocheball adds that New Yorkers get a bad rap, and that visitors are to blame:

"Tourists ask for directions but rarely say thank you." 

Johnny T's French cousin, Jean, would concur. How many tourists approach Parisians, in the street, or in shops, without bothering to say the magical words first, "Bonjour" and later, "Merci." It is so bad sometimes, that some café owners have posted this price list outside, in an attempt to educate their customers. 

"Price list. Being polite pays off"
(old enamel sign spotted on

4. Johnny T. is a nice frog, but you can see there is an air of arrogance about him. After all, he lives in the best city in the world. He does not even consider the rest of the country might not agree with him. 

In the Comment section, an argument breaks out between New Yorkers and Floridians, as they try to determine who the slowest drivers are. Later, another heated exchange happens between New Yorkers and Texans about New Yorkers exhibiting poor manners when they meet people.

Jean, the French frog, could relate. When Jean leaves the Seine river or his favorite pond in the Tuileries Gardens and heads to Southern France for his hard-earned 3-week summer vacation, he gets criticized - a lot - by other French frogs he meets outside the capital. "Parisians are the worst drivers!" "Poor Parisians, so stressed out!" "Look, that guy had to place his beach towel right next to ours when the beach is almost empty. 'Used to crowds. Must be a Parisian!

Summertime: Parisians head South!

5. Johnny T's favorite mantra: "When in New York city, move fast or get out of the way!"

New Yorkers live life in the fast lane. They walk with a purpose. You are a tourist, and you have time. They don't. In fact, Johnny T. adds: "Stay in your hotel between the hours of 4:00 to 6:00pm." -- This way, locals can handle the commute home undisturbed. 

In the Comment section, Lars E. agrees: 

"Don't stop to look around at the top of the subway stairs. 
There are 100 people coming up behind you." 

Jean, the French frog, would add that nothing is worse than being cramped in the Paris Metro by gigantic tourist backpacks (still on their owners' backs,) or by travelers who ignore the cardinal rule: Do not block the doors when they open, or you will be pushed out on the platform without mercy, even if this isn't your stop. 

Parisians trying to get home at rush hour
Tourists and flip-flops do le Metro

6. Johnny T. advises tourists to check out areas outside Manhattan. Forget the classics.  Expand your horizons. There are so many different facets to a great city like New York!

But in the Comment section, Bocheball adds: 

"I'd rather tourists stay penned in Times Square where most of you idiots go and residents avoid like the plague. The smart tourists, the few there are, are mostly European, go to the cool places, and generally act far cooler!"

Uh... Thank you for European tourists... I guess.

Jean the Parisian frog would concur. He, too, would love for tourists to venture out of downtown Paris. After all, this is a compact city, and only 2 million people live in the center. Still, Paris welcomes over 15 million visitors a year! Allez, tourists, step away from la Tour Eiffel, le Louvre, Notre Dame, or les Champs-Elysées...

The Parisian Times Square?
Crowds on the Champs-Elysées


7. I like to end a story on a happy note.

In the Comment section, Sam the Cat writes: 

"Despite the stereotypes, we are actually very fond of tourists
 and are proud to show off our city."

Jean the Parisian frog would agree. Parisians may seem rushed, and aloof, but if you get lost and ask for directions politely (don't forget to say "Bonjour" first,) you will be surprised to see how much time they take to get you back on the right track. They love their city, and want you to love it too.

It's not unusual either to see two Parisians, in full display of Gallic pride, arguing about the best way to help a stranded tourist, which is always very entertaining... 

"Where is the Eiffel Tower?"
"Behind you, ma chère !" 

So whether you visit New York or Paris, keep in mind Johnny T. and his French cousin Jean la Grenouille will be happy to help, should you get in trouble. And if you have the irrepressible urge to drag one of those heavy backpacks around, remember: "Move it, or lose it!," - oh, and stay in your hotel room from 4:00pm to 6:00pm!

Bonne visite ! A bientôt !

Special thanks to talented illustrator Vahram Muratyan who knows, and loves, Paris and New York. Do get his wonderful Paris vs. New York book if you haven't already.