We really had absolutely no time for shopping, but I do love the individual neighborhood shops of Paris. I had walked by a small store in the morning that I could tell, simply by looking in, Kristen would love. She was looking for a new bag and found a stunning one in this store – Catherine Loiret. The bags are custom made by the woman that sold it to her, and she could not have been more delightful. The address is 21 bis rue Amelie, if you have a chance, check them out. Catherineloiret.com The quality and leather are both spectacular.
Dogs, who doesn’t love dogs, including the Parisians. What is so funny is the fact that despite the French being French, if you lean down and talk to their dog in English and say “aren’t you the sweetest thing” the Frenchman will reply “Yes I am” in English. Always funny and sometimes an icebreaker.
The economy is good in Paris despite what you hear about the Euro overall. The streets are spotless, the stores appear to be doing a brisk business and the only place we saw the homeless were in the subway, and they are allowed to sleep there due to the cold.
I would like to digress just a tad here, and talk about the extra 5 pounds we all carry around in change. France is on the Euro, and the smallest Euro bill is a five, so you have a lot of $1 and $2 Euro coins, but you also have a LOT of stupid small change coins, and they weigh down pants pockets and purses. The problem is getting rid of them. Waiters are their own bank, so if you pay your bill by dumping a bunch of your small change on them, you not only suffer their wrath because then they have to carry it in their pocket for their entire shift, but god forbid you need change, because you are going to get it in the smallest possible denominations they have.
The lesson from this is don’t use cash. Norm explained that this is a relatively new phenomenon in France, the French use credit cards for EVERYTHING. Cash is absolutely unheard of now. This is something that will take some getting used to for me as I like to take a certain amount of cash, go through it, and know that I won’t be slammed with credit card bills when I get home. Alas the world is a changing. In the meantime, anyone know a small boy and two elephants that are willing to carry the forty pounds of Euro pennies I seem to have accumulated?
I asked Kristen some of her thoughts, as her last visit was when she was 15, and her overwhelming sense was lack of direction. When we stood atop the Eiffel Tower and looked at the winding and curving streets she understood. I, however, find the metro the easiest way to get around and find it second nature, but am embarrassed at how simple my friend Norm hops the bus system, it all just takes time.
Kristen also just loved the amount of playful, polite and fun loving teenagers that seemed to occupy our neighborhood. They tended to congregate on the streets but with no menace about them, they were smartly dressed, smiled and seemed to have an innocence that is lacking in the U.S.
The French are still French. There is an innate superiority that amazes all that meet them. However every once in a while we could get them to crack their armors, and I was even able to out French our waiter on the last night with an eye roll and a snap of my wrist about my champagne glass. I believe even he had a smile on his face by the end.
To me this is a phenomenon of Europe overall. It is an ennui that comes from years and years of corruption, red tape, nepotism and difficult economies. I find it charming rather than off putting and leads me to further mull over the idea how young Europeans tend to try to come to the U.S. for a better life, and older Americans attempt to retire in Europe for the exact same reason. It is not a conundrum, just a strong indication of how we all want such different things at different points in our lives.
Europe still has architecture and art at every corner that takes your breath away. Europeans live artfully. By this, I mean, that everything is done with beauty in mind first. We do everything with economy in mind first. Yes that means that our economy is better, but I don’t necessarily think it means our lives are richer for it.
I would like to see fewer pairs of $200 Lululemon yoga pants on women walking down the streets in San Francisco and a little more thought to style.
I would like to see fewer value engineered steel and glass repetitive architecture down Market Street and a little more curvature and unique doors and windows.
And instead of a Gap store on every corner, it would be nice to see a few more displays of stacks of macaroons and chocolates with fresh flowers gracing the windows of our streets.
That is what I mean by living artfully, and that is why I think more people, as they retire are drawn to living the expat life in Europe, they want richer and more artful senior years.