I’m now in Paris for a few days—the first time I have ever spent more than 22 hours in the city.
I took the RER down from CDG to Paris; after exiting the train and going up the stairs I passed a young couple snogging in the station. A closer couple with clothing you could not imagine. In this city of love, they have not been the only couple I’ve witnessed snogging.
It seems somewhat stereotypical to say that the French kiss a lot, that they are the most romantic people on the planet, but it seems so true after a brief city exploration.
The locals fulfill other French stereotypes perfectly: the waitress at the coffee shop ignored me when I wanted to pay the bill (for a moment I thought I was somewhere in East Germany); the hotel is defensive about the fact the room smells of cigarette smoke (“We are a non-smoking hotel,” the man says. The cigarette butt under my bed suggests that other customers haven’t complied and how the maid didn’t notice the stench is beyond me); and, errr… I cannot think of a third stereotype to complain about. However, the hotel charges for WiFi and proudly announces this with an advert in the elevator. The sign has accurate graffiti written next to the pricing: “trop cher”. Fortunately I am leeching off of somebody else’s signal for free.
Last night I took the Montmartre Free Tour—a two hour exploration past the Moulin Rouge, the Café des Deux Moulins, Sacré Cœur, and other Paris sites. Although the weather was cool, and the crowd somewhat random, there were an astounding four people with Denver connections, including one guy who teaches English for a living in Seville (cute, I might add). It was a pleasant way to knock off an evening and see a part of town that I might not have otherwise had time to see.
Today has been more museum oriented: the Institut du Monde Arabe and the Musee Jacquemart Andre. I wandered through the Galeries Lafayette and into Printemps and around town. Once my feet started complaining, I consulted a bus map and discovered I could take a bus all the way from where I happened to be back to my hotel: a lucky discovery.
I found a grocery store where I picked up a few things: principally stuff to drink; and in the odd and somewhat amusing category, in addition to providing the total in Euros, the conversion rate between French Francs and Euros was listed (“1 Euro = 6.55957 Frs”) with a lot more accuracy than is probably needed for day-to-day transactions, along with the grand total: in my case 10.50€ was, once upon a time, 68.88F. I’ve not seen the old currency listed in Belgium, The Netherlands, or Germany—any time recently that I can remember. I’ve been informed that such price conversions show up in other places, like credit card receipts.
It reminded me that once, when I flew into Brussels on my way to Rotterdam, I needed to buy a train ticket. It was in the pre-physical Euro days. When I bought the train ticket, I remember thinking it was extraordinarily expensive—the price was in Belgian Francs. However, much to my relief, the price in Euros was also listed, and although I didn’t know the exact exchange rate, I knew that 21€ was not unreasonable for the journey.
I wonder how many Frenchmen still calculate prices in Euros though…