Wednesday, June 10, 2009

little charms in Paris

So here's the first of the Paris windows I promised you -- although I appreciate the monumental and the iconic here, it's as often the more everyday, smaller pleasures that delight me. The art that can be found at every level of shop astounds me. Here is a window from a pricier fashion shop along the Rue St. Honoré (sorry, I should probably have got the name for you), but I will also show you some examples from much more modest quartiers.

And to assure you that I am not immune to grander charms, here is the view of the Panthéon as we walked towards it along Rue Soufflot our first evening here -- I'm quite fond of this view because it signals that we're within striking distance (not too much more than a kilometre away) from our hotel.
Among other smaller charms, besides the windows, some miscellany:
a group of pre-schoolers waiting for the single toilet (the now-free kind that look like a large tin pod, the sliding door operated by buttons) in the Jardin des Plantes. Impatient as I was to use the toilet, I was still amused by their antics -- of course, some kept hopefully pushing the button, ignoring the concern of their peer seated inside where the teacher was trying to hurry the action along. Also cute to see the teachers trying to keep the door open, passing one child out and another in, so as not to have to wait for the flushing and cleaning period --- as well as trying to get the zipping and buttoning done beforehand. One of the delights of visiting Paris in May and June (and this may very well be the case for other months as well) is observing the many school groups out on field trips.
We had a lovely chat with une vraie Parisienne (as she told us) at the next table in the Café Madeleine -- she wished she''d learned to speak English in her youth, but said that there wasn't much opportunity to do so in those pre-war years. Beautifully groomed and turned out, she threw us both into disbelief when she revealed her age -- 87 years!
Very amused, at the same restaurant, at being given a lesson in pronunciation by the waiter in return for my comment that, while my omelette had been delicious, there was too much bone in the jambon for my liking -- it was an omelette campagnarde and I thought there was a bit too much of the campagne. Rather than apologize, or express any dismay at all on my behalf, he instead first pretended not to understand what I was saying (and I was very polite and pleasant about it and had no intention of not paying at all -- merely thought it worth noting) -- and then said something to the effect of "Oh, you mean 'os'' -- which I'm quite sure I'd approximated rather closely. Their attitude to the language really cracks me up--accent and pronunciation must be absolutely correct with little effort given to discerning anything that falls short or sideways -- especially given what I contend with daily from my university-level ESL students. But Pater and I were mainly amused by the crafty deflection -- despite the 8 or 9 pieces of bone/cartilage clearly decorating my plate, the emphasis was on my supposed mis-pronunciation (and you know, phonetically, there's not too much room to manoeuvre far away from a long "o" -- just sayin'. . . (and for fear of offending with my generalization, yes, we certainly do meet many patient listeners willing to exercise their imagination to tease out our meaning, but they often seem to be the exception)
Anyway, we're going to head off into the rain (yes, and there's much more forecast) to find some dinner. We've done the Warhol exhibit at the Grand Palais, had a lovely shopping day with my friend Andrea (and I found a great new pair of booties, reasonable heel, blue suede, Camper), been recognized and welcomed warmly when dining at the Moroccan place across the road, and my poor mari is currently trying to book a reservation at l'Avant-Gout (poor, because he has all my sympathy trying to do anything en français au téléphone) for tomorrow night. Right now, it's pissing down (if you know a French equivalent, do let me know as I think there will be much opportunity to use it), but whatever, I'm in Paris . . . . à bientôt


  1. Ah! Soaking up the atmosphere from your post! I love that shot of the Pantheon, we stay in an apt. with a view of its dome. I can smell the streets after the rain from this photo. Thanks so much for taking the time to share the sights with us.

  2. I love this post, not only for the windows (what a story they tell!) and the vrai parisienne and the Camper booties, but mostly for the fact that we've been to your Moroccan place and I can picture your hotel. Looking forward to the rest of your trip! Patricia

  3. I too have had that experience when speaking French in France - though interestingly the first time I went in 1985 they were very dismissive of my attempts, but the last time I went in 2001 I had many compliments on my French from waiters and the like and I don't think my accent had improved that much - more that they are so used to people just speaking English to them, having someone attempt to speak French instead made them happy.

    Enjoy your trip!

  4. Somehow, I'd put up with "pissing" rain too just to be in Paris! That window is lovely, looking forward to more.

  5. My beloved high school French teacher taught us to say 'Il pleut comme vache qui pisse' - I'd say that's a pretty close equivalent for you!. And the accent thing in Paris is just astounding, isn't it? When you think about travelling to Asia or South America, where people are SO tolerant of (feeble) attempts to speak the language ... My stepfather is French, but hasn't lived there for 30 years and his FAMILY insist that he doesn't speak it properly anymore!!

  6. Bienvenue à Paris Mater! Moi j'y serai dans 2 semaines. J'ai bien hâte d'y retrouver ma famille. Chez-nous lorsqu'il pleut comme ça on dit,il pleut à grands seaux ou alors il tombe des cordes. Espérons que le soleil va bientôt apparaître. Bon séjour.


  7. Duchesse/Patricia: I love that sense of recognizing a neighbourhood through someone's photo or description -- that sense of familiarity with another little corner of the world. Neat to think how our footsteps have overlapped.
    Imogen: You're right that so many Parisian servers seem warmly appreciative of any efforts to speak French -- we had exactly that experience last night.
    Pseu: Yes, despite the rain, I'm in Paris which is considerable compensation!
    Tiffany: Now that's a very useful expression -- exactly what I was looking for -- and I'm apparently going to have the opportunity to try it out . . .
    Orane: Merci -- dommage que nous ne sommes pas ici au mê temps. (hope that made sense -- I get embarrasseed with my poor French and, at home, I'd be checking it with a dictionary and a grammar!)

  8. Le Duc says os is pronounced close to "us" in English- though some French say the "o" like the 'eau' sound in "bateau"- but, he says "that's not common". SO there- you are not common!

    In the plural there is usually no "s" sound, so it sounds like "des-oh' (with elision).
    (The 's' IS pronounced in certain expressions like "un paquet d'os"- a person who's a 'bag of bones'. Mmmm you are no doubt having marvelous meals... We want to hear ALL about them!


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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