Alternate title: The One That Starts Out Grumpy, but Finishes With Cake
I may be a minority here, but I don’t find the French rude. Not as a rule, at least.
Was someone rude to you in France? Was that person French? Was that person rude because they are French?
As Dad always says: yes, yes, and unrelated. There are a number of reasons why foreigners probably find the French rude, but my personal assessment is that it’s very often the fault (or at least the perception) of the foreigner, not the French (One of my lovely writers on the Alliance Française DC blog recently discussed just this).
Whether the French are rude or not isn’t the point – at least not today – but rather a preface to the fact that this past week was one of rude-and-unhelpful. I’m not blaming the French, though. I’m just blaming the well-meaning, but ultimately useless aid in the continuing studies office (on the 8ème étage – which is really the 9th floor, mind you – of a building whose elevator was out) of one of the universities, two ill-natured desk attendants who whipped out immediate “c’est pas possible”s at the bank, and the crankypants that got all ornery when I was pushed into her coming off the metro. Harumph.
All of this gave me bureaucracy and France on the brain, which made this Bureaucratics photo series particularly timely, as well as these new arguments for and against learning French. Whatever everyone else thinks, though, this is one word nerd who still loves all the mots and gets a little too tickled over rules about words and catching typos in a story by one of her favorite authors (consider that a challenge). All that may be a little bit crazy, but so are Russian tourists – not to mention some of the Olympic athletes in Russia.
Last week I wrote off James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. This week I was made to feel both better and worse about that review and more mindful about book bullying (and Barbie bullying). I learned Charlie Chaplin wrote a book, realized I’d never watched the man do what he did best, and then fixed that real quick. Spent some time learning about other things that are getting fixed in the fabulous worlds of medicine and technology: like plugging up gunshot victims, giving sensation back to amputees, and putting some skin in the game of health vs. profit.
So, fortunately, the whole week wasn’t lost to stairs and gueules bougonnes. Paris had somewhere around three half days of bright sun, so I was good enough to burrow myself out of my little cachette from time to time.
During those outings, I made it up to the top of Printemps for by far the best view I’ve seen of Paris. Though Sacré Coeur is higher, it’s so far away that even on a clear day it’s like looking at the city through a windshield covered in a Cincinnati winter’s worth of grime. The Printemps building’s squat mass swollen with luxury goods is plumb perfect in the middle of the city. At ten floors, it’s just slightly higher than the legal limit for most buildings in Paris and the rooftop park gives a 360 technicolor panorama as vibrant as stepping from Kansas into Oz.
Sitting on a sunny bench in the late afternoon wind, we watched the sun splinter through the stern lace of the Eiffel Tower, admired the copper mossing green over the Opéra Garnier, and were close enough to see the mosaics and gold leaf curling across the facade of Printemps itself. We sweetened the scene with macarons to finally conclude the challenge I’d set between Ladurée and Pierre Hermé (outcome: I’m team PH).
Paris being Paris, though, as I was heading home from this unexpected treat and taking my time wandering past the artisanal violin makers and cello boutiques along rue du Rome, I got caught in a thunderstorm.
Happily, the sun stuck her tongue out again the next day during the (45 minutes) trek out east of the city to the Bois de Vincennes for a (46 minute) Sunday run away from all the stone and béton. After which, in proper Parisian style we promptly settled in to see out the weekend by working out our bouches: over brunch and coffee while debating the myriad insanities of au-pairing, around drinks and live music while debating the myriad insanities of French and English, and by homemade lemon cake and tea while debating myriad insanities.