Saturday, March 27, 2010

Coming Soon...

I've been playing with the idea of doing a review of each arrondissement in Paris. The weather has been nasty so I've put off starting this rather time consuming task, but now I think (hope) I am up to it. There are 20 and it will take a while, but seeing how I've now put it in writing, I will probably do it. Although, I have not finished my initial goal of getting on or off at every metro stop in Paris (I am ever so close though). Stay tuned...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring has Sprung

Near the Chateau de Versailles

I always comment that Spring just sort of hits us in Paris around mid-March. And for the most part, it is true. Usually around the 15th or so, I start noticing that it is light for my morning run (around 6:30 if the weather permits, 7:30 at the gym, if the weather is being a bastard) and all of a sudden the temperature warms up noticeably, we have sunnier days and light past 5 p.m.

However, there are other ways Spring announces itself. The most breathtaking are all of the budding flowers and trees. Not that Paris is really a "green" city or anything, but I do try to get out to the suburbs about two times a month and Versailles is always a nice, Springy city to see. Also, the 13th arrondissement (Asian Quarter) has an excellent boulevard lined with horse chestnut trees which are just breathtaking. I often miss their flowering because the blooms only last about 10 days, or so it seems, but it is always worth the trip to catch a glimpse of them.

But by far, the announcement of Spring's arrival I find most amusing in every sense of the word is the plethora of nude or partially nude advertisements. True to form, the French have no problem with the human body, but sometimes these photos, magazines, ads, etc. just take my breath away. For example the magazine Votre Corps (might be slightly incorrect on this title). For the month of March, they had a completely naked woman on the cover. Full frontal. Don't get me wrong, she was perfect, just a bit shocking to see a nine foot version at the local paper stand. Just today I saw another magazine with a girl, fully dressed, pulling her dress to the side to cheekily expose a breast. And don't even get me started on Tetu, the magazine for the young gay male. I nearly trip every time I see its cover.

Anyway, Spring is here and hopefully with it, pleasant weather for all of the Northern Hemisphere!

Monday, March 15, 2010

If You're French, this Post is Probably Going to Piss You Off

Looks like a woman from behind, no? Colorful poncho, nice lovely
gray hair pulled back by a wooden barrette...but it's a dude, in a suit.

Throughout the years, I've bitched aplenty on this blog. For the most part, something gets under my skin, I come home, angrily type out a few paragraphs and send my frustration out into the world. More often than not, I feel better after I get whatever is bothering me off my chest and read some angry responses (go home, you're stupid, etc.). For the most part, I prefer living in Paris (even though I have never wanted to stay here) to living in Arkansas. Actually, if I were a praying women, I would send up a request daily begging never to return to my home state. And for the most part, I can handle all the bullshit that comes with being an expat/foreigner with a smile or a small gripe-fest with friends.

However, the one thing I have never, ever gotten over, or will get over for that matter, is how rude some people can be here. I have tons of examples, but the thing that irritates me the most is how almost every French person I speak with feels the need to tell me how badly I speak or pronounce French.

Now, I will openly admit, I don't practice French enough. I don't/haven't taken any classes because I really don't care if I learn French. I know this is a terrible attitude and I am not defending it, but I never expected to live here for more than a year (how it got to be 5 years, I will never understand), so going to classes never appealed to me. When I have spare time, I prefer to spend it at a museum or exercising, not going to a class where a teacher can tell me how badly I speak French. And you'd be surprised how easy it is to live here without speaking the language. So yes, I absolutely, unequivocally admit, I suck at French. I understand damn near everything I hear, but my spoken French is probably not much better than a 4 year old's.

Normally, I do not strike up a conversation with someone I don't know. So if I am speaking to someone in French, I either know them (which makes the whole, "Oh my god, you're French is so terrible," comment even harder to take) or it is some random stranger who starts talking to me in a public place. In the US, I probably wouldn't respond to these people, but here, I just think, "Eh, here's a good chance to practice my conversational skills without feeling too stupid." I should know better. I always end up regretting this thought because without fail the person who started speaking to me ends up making some hateful comment about my level of French.

The most recent occurrence happened last Friday. I went for a walk in a neighborhood I've hitherto avoided because it isn't the best place in the world to go for a promenade. But the weather is getting better and I definitely wanted to see the area before leaving so I decided to suck it up, hide my wallet and brave it. I wasn't on the street for more than two minutes before a guy popped up beside me and started chatting. He walked with for about ten minutes, the whole time conversing in French with me responding in French. I did not say ONE English word. When I'd had enough of the the general, creepy conversation, I told him bye and said I was off to meet my husband (good way to get rid of pesky men fast). At this point, he decided that he should let me know just how badly I spoke French. Not only did he tell me my pronunciation was terrible, but also my conjugation and my verb usage was embarrassing. He even hinted that I might possibly be mentally challenged and should be tested because there are special programs in France for people who have "difficulties".

I hate to say that I will always recall incidences like these after I leave Paris because I have had some really great experiences here, but it just feels like things like this happen all too often for me to remember my time here with much more than a lukewarm feeling. I hope that after I've lived elsewhere for a few years, I will reflect and dreamily say, "Ah, Paris...," but most days I just can't think of many things I will miss once I am gone.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Free Sunday at the Louvre

The great pyramid of I. M. Pei. Perhaps one of the best thing
about the Da Vinci Code...the whole world got to see this.

The first Sunday of each month is a "free" day at most of the National Museums in France. When I first moved here, I took advantage of these days, sometimes going to as many as three museums in one day (a bit too much, even for an extreme art lover), but the hassle of queuing, the crowds inside the museum and the general overexposure of art kind of killed my desire to venture into a gallery on these days. However, last Sunday, I decided to wait until late in the afternoon, brave the crowds as well as the horribly cold weather and head to the Louvre to see my favorite piece of art.

The crowd is almost enough to keep me away...
this is what it was like 15 minutes before closing.

I know I've blogged about this statue before because I just love it so much, but honestly, until you experience seeing it in person, nothing I can say here, or any picture, will do this piece justice. I am talking about Winged Victory of Samothrace. I don't know exactly what it is about this statue, whether it is the actual craftsmanship, the size or the placement of it (at the top of a huge marble staircase), but I am breathless every time I see it. I am especially confused because from what I understand, this statue was part of a ship, so technically it didn't begin as art. Which always makes me wonder about what people in future decades and centurieswill consider art from this time period. Will they look at the Mercedes emblem and comment on how talented we were in our primitive ways?

As I said, no picture actually does it justice. I believe this wing was
rebuilt based on a hand they found, but I could have that wrong

Friday, March 12, 2010

Lazy Blogger

The weather has been crap here and I am suffering from a general malaise so blogging has been the last thing on my mind these days. I hate that I let so much time pass between posts because I see/hear/do crazy things everyday and would love to post each incidence. So I am making a St. Patrick's day resolution (it's the closest holiday). I will post at least one post a week. Since it's in writing and in interspace now, I will do it. Happy Friday everyone!