Saturday, June 25, 2011

Random French Conversation 2

A couple weeks ago I was sitting in the big courtyard area in front of Notre Dame, sketching bits and pieces of the facade.  This happened to be the one I was right in the middle of working on when a guy dressed in a suit rode up on his bicycle, sat next to me, and asked in french if I was an artist.

Yea, 'cus this is the kind of stuff an artist does in their free time.  I told him that I was a student of art and design and he asked me to point out the section I was drawing.  Quite understandable, Notre Dame is huge and has quite a bit of sprawling stone detail-work.  He went on to tell me probably everything he knew about art and architecture, which was kind of hard to follow because I'm not all that familiar with french architectural vocabulary terms, but I think I got the jist of most of it.  Then he told me I was really pretty, and that he wanted to take me to some bars that were in interesting buildings...  I said that bars are for drinking, not art, and that I needed to focus on art for the rest of the evening.  Ha.  He said it was a pleasure meeting me (still being polite after being totally denied--so french) and to keep making pretty drawings before getting back on his bike and riding away.

(photo by e.hunt)

Starbucks, Paris Style

I did it.  Last week I broke down and went to France.  My love for coffee-flavored blended drinks got the best of me, and I'll admit, I was a bit curious.  Would it be the same as home?  Being an avid coffeehouse goer, I was missing my usual atmosphere.  I mean, the cafes are great, but I was really craving an icy cold some sort of chocolaty flavored frappaccino topped with whipped cream, and there's really nowhere else here that has any product even remotely close.  Starbucks ranks pretty low on my coffeehouse list in the US (nothing compares to Kaldi's in Kirkwood or the Mudhouse down in Springtown), but I was desperate.  This is what it looked like from the outside: just another Starbucks, complete with outdoor seating, multiple logos, and their earthy color scheme.

And then I walked inside.  The counter area was identical to an American Starbucks.  Same graphic design style, same menu (the names were all in english with french descriptions), same uniforms for the workers, and the same mugs and other Starbucks-logo-laden paraphernalia.  The seating area however, was an entirely different story.

The elaborately comfortable and detailed surroundings wasn't the only difference though.  The bakery options were much more artistic and fresh-looking, the items I got seemed to have a richer taste, the prices were higher (but so is everything else here, so no big deal), and they said the American names with a French accent, which completely made the experience.  The cashier yelled my order, "Un jshava sheep frappascheeno!"and then one of the barista's yelled it back, so I got to hear it twice!  So, overall, it was pretty much the same as in the US, but, like everything else here, about six steps up on the scale of classy-ness.

(photos collected from googleimages)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

All in the Line of Duty

There's probably a section on a French Security Guard application stating whether or not the candidate has had any previous exposure to spontaneous modeling.  I mean, they're basically walking mannequins in all the stores.  Even my local grocery store has a guy wearing an impeccable 3-piece suit (usually with cuff-links, and sometimes I'll see a skinny bow-tie) to welcome you as you come in the door.  They don't sell clothing there, but even so, the guards dress better than most CEOs, politicians, and celebrities in the US.  They're probably all undercover 00 agents, and dressing impeccably is a requirement for that particular branch of employment.

They all look like this: all innocent and delightful, blending in with the store.  But if he ever caught you shoplifting (and he would.  Just look at those glasses), he would take you down, and before throwing you out of the store, he would deliver a Bond-esque one liner with an intense politeness to match the suit: "Au revoir...monsieur." 

(photo collected from googleimages)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

What I Don't Miss

Here's a list of what I'm really glad to be without for a few months.

Things I Don't Miss.  At all.  Not one bit.
-Earth-killing, pollution-spouting, entirely-too-huge-and-monstrous-for-their-own-good cars.  The amount of minis and smart cars here is inspiring.
-No recycling in public areas.  There is glass and plastic recycling containers everywhere here.  Cardboard, not so much, but one step at a time I guess.
-Poor design and presentation.  Everything looks really good here: advertisements (and the setting the advertisement is in), window displays, package/product designs, crosswalk signs, ticket stubs, food, etc.
-Raining all day, for several days in a row.  It rains here, pretty much every day, but only for like twenty minutes to an hour at a time, which is a lot more acceptable than the torrential downpourings we get at home.
-Having to drive everywhere.  Now, don't take this the wrong way.  I LOVE driving, and I love my car and the convenience factor that comes along with a car, but I am absolutely fascinated with the metro system; however, this poses kind of a situational/locational issue.  I can't really imagine it working out as awesomely in the US.
-Overly tactful waiters/vendors.  You have to ask to be helped here, and it's a delightful change from the bombardment of questions that American workers inevitably ask.
-Annoying, loud groups of kids.  Little French kids out-cool little American kids by far.  No contest.  They're like, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel in 500 Days of Summer cool, and they're not even ten years old.

(photo collected from googleimages)

What I Miss

So I've been here a little over two weeks and have kind of established a sort of routine...wake up at 7:30, go to class, go to the supermarche, decide where to spend the afternoon or rest a little before going to culture class, hang out at the apt, homework, internet, bed.  Now that I have a kind of regular schedule, I've been able to better recognize the things that I miss from the US.  I did one of these a few weeks after I started college, and I always find it interesting to see the things I value in everyday life.

Things I Miss
-People to do things with.
-Not raining every time I want to go running.  It rains a lot here.
-Coffee flavored drinks and/or the coffeehouse atmosphere.  Cafes just don't cut it.
-Being able to hear the vendor when he or she talks to you.  One of the plus sides of the loud American stereotype.
-Cheap food.
-Being able to smile at people.  I made the mistake of smiling at a guy in the metro when I lost my balance (amateur move, during the first few days), you know, like any normal person would do at home to lessen the awkwardness, but here, if a girl smiles at a guy, it means 'All systems go.'  I just want to be friendly!
-Seeing grass everyday.  I love the big city atmosphere, but I hate having to go to a park to see more nature than just a spindly tree jutting out of the sidewalk.
-The right kind of outlets.  I have to strategically plan my use of electronics so I can charge them accordingly.  And I broke down and bought a hair straightener because I couldn't stand my big, curly, Julia-Roberts-in-Pretty-Woman (only worse) hair anymore.
-Things being open past 8pm.  It stays light here 'til 10 at least, which is absolutely delightful, but everything closes early.
-Honey Bunches of Oates.  My mornings, and therefor my days, are not the same without a bowl of honey, bunchy, oatyness.  Frosted Flakes (or Frosties, as they are called here) are only good for so long.

(photo by ehunt)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Random French Conversation 1

On one of my first days here, I was buying metro tickets and couldn't figure out where to put the bills in the machine, so I asked the attendant and, I guess because of my accent, he asked me where I was from in the United States.  I told him St. Louis (in the most french way possible), and he looked at me with a confused expression on his face.  I didn't know how to say 'in the midwest' in french so I said it was in the middle of the country on the Mississippi River.  He still had no idea.  I've found that French people really only know about California and New York City when it comes to US geography.  Anyway, he came out of his window to show me how to use the machine, and this is where the conversation gets good.

Just in case you go to Paris one day and buy metro tickets through a machine, and don't want to have a ten minute long french conversation with the attendant, the bills go in the little slot way over to the right in the part that doesn't even look like it's connected to the rest of the apparatus.  While I was finishing up the transaction, the guy stood there next to me and asked if I liked our president.  Yes, I had a political conversation in french with the metro guy during my first 24 hours in Paris.  We discussed, agreed on some things, and disagreed on some things, and then I continued on my way.  It was interesting that politics was the first thing he brought up upon learning I was American.  In our culture, politics is one of those topics you aren't really supposed to talk about, especially someone's personal opinion, unless you know the person pretty well.  I just asked the guy to help me get a ticket and I feel like I know him better than some of my friends I hang out with on a regular basis.  The cool thing is, that even if we disagreed on liking or disliking Obama, I feel like that really wouldn't have changed the conversation that much; like he wouldn't have been offended or disinterested in the conversation anymore.

I feel like I'm going to have a lot of stories that have to do with the metro.

(photo collected from googleimages)